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Admiral Steeles, head of Starfleet Academy, finished presenting his proposal and sat back to await the reaction.

"It would, at the very least, be worth one trial run," conceded Admiral Nogura after a few moments of silence.

Amazed by the quick acceptance, Steeles was equally quick to pounce upon the offer. "The only difficulty we at Starfleet Academy foresee is the willingness of truly experienced people to participate. If you don't see this as a problem, we'd like to set up the first four week course for end of term. Who did you have in mind?"

Nogura leaned into the plush back of his chair, a small, truly evil, smile wrinkling his worn features. "I think, in this particular case, it would be appropriate for the squeaky wheel who started all this in the first place to apply the grease. You provide me with your timetable, and I'll advise our volunteer."

* * * * *

"But, Admiral,...."

"No buts, Captain, you have your orders. Nogura out."

Kirk's thundering "damn" and the echoing crash of his fist connecting with the smooth surface of his desk coincided perfectly with Spock's entrance to the office through the opening door.

Not used to such a reaction to his presence, Spock paused on the threshold. Kirk noticed him, managed a weak smile, and waved the hesitant figure toward the visitor's chair.

Spock placed the report tapes he held on the desk and slipped into the offered chair, two raised eyebrows questioning the outburst he had walked into. "Is there something wrong, Jim?"

"Spock, the next time I get one of my bright ideas," Kirk said, exasperation thick in his tone and expression, "do me a favor and sit on me until it goes away."

Had Spock's eyebrows not already been lifted to maximum height towards his bangs, Kirk's request would most certainly have elevated them.

"Do you remember the complaint I sent in about the survival skills of graduates coming out of Starfleet Academy?" Kirk prompted.

"A completely justified complaint given the lack of basic ability displayed by..."

Kirk waved aside the rest of Spock's statement. "I'm certainly glad you feel that way, because this is going to hurt you as much as it hurts me." He paused, bracing himself to impart his distressing news. "Nogura just informed me that I've volunteered to spend the entire four weeks of the Enterprise's refit teaching the new improved survival course for six of Starfleet Academy's senior cadets."

"But, Jim." Spock stopped the protest himself. His disappointment matched Kirk's, but voicing it would serve no purpose other than to make Kirk feel guilty. Not that Kirk needed any help in that department. Spock could already see the burden settling on Kirk's shoulders.

"I'm sorry, Spock," Kirk apologized.

There was no sense in Kirk beating himself over the head with it. They were both creatures of duty, and when duty called... "I too am disappointed, Jim, but you cannot hold yourself responsible. The cadets' poor survival skills were a danger, not only to themselves but their crewmates as well, that needed to be rectified. Starfleet Academy has become complacent in recent years."

"I know, I know. And I'm glad to see my complaint was taken seriously, even if it meant I had to be drafted." Kirk let his eyes wander over the slim body across the desk. "But I was looking forward to getting you alone. It's been over a year since we've had more than a day or two leave."

Spock nodded in agreement with the sentiment. Their responsibilities aboard ship meant they had virtually no time to themselves. Before they became lovers, there had been time for chess games and work outs, and more left over for each of them to be lonely. Since their intimate relationship began, even when they did manage to find time to be alone, by then they both were usually so horny, it was over almost before it began. Worse by far were the numerous interruptions. They couldn't even carry on a decent conversation, let alone anything more intimate. That was why the orders for the refit had seemed like a gift from a particularly benevolent deity. It now appeared that what Mother Starfleet giveth, she could also take away.

Kirk slapped his hands lightly on his desk and pushed himself to his feet. "We might as well go get some dinner, then I better start going over the 'class curriculum' Nogura sent. From the sounds of it, it's going to be an 'interesting' four weeks."

Spock rose to follow his lover/Captain, but hesitated when a thought occurred to him. He opened his mouth, then shut it abruptly. One disappointment was enough for one day. He would ascertain the feasibility of his idea before he mentioned it to Kirk.

* * * * *

"Of course, Commander Spock, if you wish to volunteer your services to Starfleet Academy for the survival training instead of taking leave, we have no objections," confirmed Admiral Nogura with a sly smile.

Spock nodded gravely as if the Admiral were doing him a big favor. "Thank you, Admiral. I will travel with Captain Kirk."

It wasn't the leave they'd planned, but at least they would be together.

* * * * *

The six Starfleet Academy senior cadets who sat together in the briefing room after the departure of Admiral Steeles were, after four years of classes, hardly strangers to each other. Neither were they exactly friends. In the highly competitive microcosm they existed in, friendships did not bloom easily between beings of diverse nature. None of the six could know it, but that was exactly what Starfleet Academy had in mind when choosing them to take their survival training together. There was no guarantee they were going to find themselves trapped on some inhospitable planet with either their best friends or their bitterest rival. The more likely scenario was that they would have to struggle to survive with beings they hardly knew. Their first task would have to be to conquer their ignorance of each other while learning to overcome, combine and complement their differences in order to survive.

Which, even had they known it, would have meant nothing to any of them at the moment. Right now they all gazed at each other in stunned disbelief as the announcement Admiral Steeles had made sank in.

"Captain James Tiberius Kirk," Munroe murmured in awed disbelief. As well she might, for her predetermined goal was not only to match his accomplishment of being the youngest Starship Captain, but to surpass it by also being the first woman to command a Constitution class ship.

"Did someone canonize the man when I wasn't looking?" asked Cadet Sean O'Hara. He took fiendish delight in applying his annoying wit to any and every subject - especially those held particularly near and dear to his fellow cadets' hearts. A trait which had yet to endear him to anyone.

"I think the powers that be considered it after the Axanar mission, but Kirk refused to wear a halo, so they gave him the Palm Leaf instead." The young man who spoke, Cadet Handly, was the only true enigma in the group. The only personal information anyone, including his roommate, knew other than his name, was his age.

"I don't know why you're going on about Kirk anyway," snapped Cadet Smythe. Descended from what was once known as the landed gentry, he had a rather abrupt and haughty manner about him especially when inspired. At the moment, he was very inspired. "Did none of you hear what he said? Commander Spock of Vulcan! Only the most brilliant scientist and computer expert who ever lived. The sheer brilliance of the man makes Kirk look like a trumped up, egotistical..."

Smythe's words came to an abrupt halt as he and the other males suddenly turned to glare at the second female of the group.

"For pity's sake, Faralah, turn down the juice!" exclaimed O'Hara to a particularly beautiful, dark-eyed, black-haired woman.

Her soft rounded features blushing crimson, Faralah struggled to bring her system under control. Normally it wasn't a problem, but whenever she became excited, her Deltan half would slip by her less than perfect control and flood the immediate area with irresistible pheromones. Giving and maintaining her oath of celibacy was easy compared to controlling her chemical effect on the susceptible males around her.

"I'm sorry. It's just so exciting."

"So are you, dear heart," agreed O'Hara, "but there's a time and place for everything."

"Must you be so crude," snapped Munroe.

"I try me best," O'Hara shot back.

"Well, I think it's just wonderful!" exclaimed Cadet Kraback in his habitual growl. He was the only obvious non-human of the group, and he was also the only member of the group that all the others liked, a fact which broke up Starfleet's plans somewhat, but it was unavoidable. Senior Cadet Kraback, as everyone who knew him agreed, was a thoroughly likeable fellow. He was bright, eager, friendly, kind, usually upright and generally clean. Besides, it was difficult to dislike someone who resembled nothing so much as a sad eyed, droopy eared Basset hound. "Isn't it?" he asked uncertainly when no one agreed.

In the very next room, the young cadets' soon-to-be instructors watched this conversation on a monitor. Both faces were flushed, Spock with embarrassment; Kirk with anger. O'Hara had no way of knowing it, but Kirk was of no mind to suffer smart mouthed Irishmen gladly. From cold soup to Kathleen, it seemed such a one as O'Hara had plagued him most of his career.

As the crimson tide of his blush receded, Kirk leaned forward and flipped off the screen. "So what do you think?" he asked Spock.

Spock gave a tiny shrug. "As you said, the next four weeks should prove...interesting."

"As in the Chinese curse - may you live in interesting times?" Kirk asked with a rueful smile, then pushed himself to his feet. "Shall we, Mr. Spock."

* * * * *

Six bodies came to immediate attention as Kirk and Spock marched into the briefing room where the cadets waited.

"At ease," Kirk ordered. "I am Captain Kirk. This is Commander Spock. We will be beaming down to Safe Haven shortly. If you happen to have any extraneous equipment with you, even so much as a nail file, you will leave it behind. Any questions? No? Good. We will assemble in the transporter room in five minutes. Dismissed."

It took the cadets a full 15 seconds to assimilate the rapid-fire introduction and instructions and to realize they were expected to leave the room. Two knocked over chairs and one stumbled over his own feet, but within a further 15 seconds, Kirk and Spock had the room to themselves.

Kirk sighed. "I find it hard to believe we were ever that young, eager and...gauche."

"I never was," Spock said. "I am Vulcan."

Kirk turned and slipped his arms around the trim waist for a quick hug. "Don't hand me that. I saw you on those Talosian tapes. Remember?"

Spock returned the hug, then released his lover. "That was my human half."

"Bull," Kirk replied succinctly and lead the way to the transporter room.

* * * * *

Upon exploration, Safe Haven, officially designated M-E763, was discovered to have no sentient life forms and a variety of terrain. It had been promptly appropriated by Starfleet for the express purpose of survival training. As survival planets went, Kirk thought as he and Spock materialized on its surface, this one wasn't half bad. At least this particular part of it. In a few days, however, they would be beamed out of this fairly hospitable grassland and into a jungle at the equator, or a desert, or.... He left off his mental review to pass an evaluating glance over his six charges and the small pile of supplies that sat between himself and them.

"Gentlemen, this is the drill. We are the survivors of a shuttle crash. What you see before you," he indicated the pile of supplies with a wave of his hand, "is what we managed to salvage before the shuttle exploded."

Kirk paused as six pairs of eyes wandered over the pitiful heap of equipment. What had been fairly expectant expressions became somewhat grimmer as the immediate reality of the situation began to sink in.

"Whatever our mission may have been when we boarded our ill-fated shuttle, now it's survival. That means...?"

Once again Kirk paused, this time to see if any of his charges were ready to display their knowledge, or ignorance, as the case may be.

"Water and food," supplied Munroe, which were, of course, the two most obvious. No food plus no water added up to no survival.

"Right, Mr. Munroe. You and Mr. Faralah sort through this mess and see if there's enough to keep eight bodies and souls together until we see if we've got the wherewithal to forage," Kirk ordered.

Munroe clamped her mouth shut over an objection. No way did she want to play chief cook and bottle washer for the next four weeks. She'd heard stories that Kirk was a chauvinist and it looked like they were true. It did not occur to Munroe to blame herself for jumping in in an effort to impress him. She did, however, have the good sense not to argue with a direct order.

"Anyone else?" Kirk prompted when Munroe and Faralah had dropped to their knees and begun sorting.

"Shelter?" ventured Kraback hopefully. He had already spotted the portashelter and heaved a silent sigh of relief. If there was anything more miserable than wet fur, he didn't know what it was.

Kirk nodded and pointed at the shelter. "Try to find us a nice soft spot, Mr. Kraback. We seem to have a rather short supply of sleeping bags."

Kraback sprang forward eagerly, then hesitated when he saw four of his classmates' doubtful expressions. Kirk had no way of knowing, of course, but the doubting Thomases had more than ample reason for their concern. Besides being the most likeable fellow currently enrolled in Starfleet Academy, Kraback was also the most accident prone. There was just no doubt about it - Kraback was one over-eager, well-meaning accident after another looking for a place to happen.

Words of protest formed on four sets of lips as visions of disaster befalling their only shelter danced through the attached minds.

Before anyone could speak, Cadet Handly, stepped forward, giving Kraback a pat on his drooping shoulder. "I've done this a few times, sir. Would it be all right if I gave Kra a hand?"

It had been Kirk's intention to assign the Grawlian an assistant all along. Erecting a shelter for six (eight in a pinch) was really a two man job. He nodded again and the two cadets each grasped an end of the container and moved away with it.

"I hope everyone is looking forward to an evening under the stars," O'Hara commented as he watched his classmates dragging the shelter away.

Kirk turned a jaundiced eye upon O'Hara, then bent down and picked up the collapsible shovel Munroe had just placed conveniently close to him. "Here, Mr. O'Hara," he said, handing the shovel over to the startled O'Hara with a bit more force than necessary. "go dig us a latrine."

Perhaps borrowing a modicum of good sense from Munroe, O'Hara accepted the shovel and the assignment, and for once kept his big mouth shut. Even the perpetual class clown knew when an instructor had his number. O'Hara recognized by the glare in narrowed hazel eyes that Kirk had his. If he didn't want to spend the next four weeks as official latrine digger, he better try to limit his witticisms.

Smythe, in the meantime, had spotted a single tricorder amidst the pile of supplies and made a bid for possession. "Captain Kirk, I've majored in the sciences. Could I be responsible for scanning?"

Kirk and Spock exchanged glances. Spock raised an eyebrow and Kirk gave a 'why not' shrug.

"You believe you possess the necessary skills to assume the role of Science Officer?" Spock asked.

"Yes, sir. I've majored in the sciences and scored top of my class every term," Smythe bragged.

"Very well, Mr. Smythe, you may have possession of our sole tricorder," Spock said, watching impassively as the cadet snatched up the tricorder and hustled away, obviously very pleased with himself.

"Let's get a little perspective on the situation," Kirk suggested with a nod toward a tree several yards from the beam down point and began moving away with Spock at his side.

"You just set Smythe up for a fall, didn't you?" he asked when they were out of earshot.

Spock gave a nearly imperceptible shrug. "That will depend entirely upon Mr. Smythe."

Kirk let the grin he had been suppressing surface. "Learning from your mistakes does tend to drive the lesson home," he agreed. "They might as well make those mistakes here where they are relatively safe. No Klingons. No Gorns. Not even so much as a scorpion. In fact, Safe Haven is about the most non-threatening planet I've ever been on."

Spock nodded in agreement. "Starfleet Academy has made certain of that. They do, after all, want their cadets returned to them with their new knowledge." They reached the tree and sat with their backs against the trunk to watch their charges attempt to create order out of chaos.

"What do you think we'd be doing if we were on Star Base 12 right now?" Kirk asked wistfully a few minutes later.

Spock didn't have to consider his answer for long. "I believe we would be engaging in at least our second, and perhaps our third, uninterrupted act of sexual intimacy."

Kirk sighed. "Too bad we couldn't find some place private while our cadets are erecting our camp and spend the time erecting each other."

Spock surveyed the completely flat land all around them. No bushes, no convenient hills. Just lots of grass, a stream and the one lone tree they sat under. He offered no comment to Kirk's wishful thinking out loud.

"Speaking of sex," Kirk said, becoming more serious. "That could become something of an embarrassment if Cadet Faralah doesn't keep a lid on those pheromones of hers. Especially with all of us squashed into that six man tent."

"Indeed," Spock agreed fervently.

"I don't suppose I could convince you to sleep under the stars with me?" Kirk coaxed.

"There are only four sleeping bags. I do not believe it would be setting a good example to commandeer two of them when survival of the entire group, in as comfortable a manner as possible, is the objective," Spock demurred although the prospect of being alone with Kirk rather than packed like a Vulcan sardine into the portashelter was infinitely preferable. "I do understand that Mr. Faralah's lapses are infrequent," he offered by way of consolation.

"I hope so. I have enough trouble controlling myself around you. I don't need regular doses of Deltan pheromones to boost the gain." Kirk grinned at his lover. "And neither do you."

Spock nodded agreement, mouth and eyes softening in as close to a smile as he would allow when not alone with his lover. An expression which never failed to stir Kirk's gentler emotions, behind which always seemed to lurk his lustier nature. This was not going to help him keep his hands off Spock.

Reluctantly, Kirk climbed to his feet and offered a hand down to help Spock. "Come on, Commander, back to business. We better go make sure no Klingons have invaded camp while we've been otherwise occupied."

Spock accepted the strong grasp and allowed himself to be pulled to his feet.

"Duck!" yelled a voice from the camp followed by the long, rude, drawn-out sputter of escaping air.

Kirk yanked his hand from Spock's and spun around just in time to see the nearly deflated portashelter sail through the neatly sorted supplies, sending everything from spoons to sanipacks flying, and then knocking the two sorters on their shapely rumps. It settled to the ground a moment later, still flatulating its innards flat.

Temptation was forgotten as Kirk charged back toward the site. "Who the hell needs Klingons, their own ineptitude will kill them!" he muttered under his breath.

Following the determined stride, with his gaze fixed on the delectable flexing of his favorite view, Spock decided this was, indeed, going to be a very long four weeks.

By the time Kirk reached the camp, O'Hara and Smythe had joined their comrades and Handly had helped the women to their feet. Only Kraback remained kneeling where he had been when the shelter took flight, the sealer plug still held in his furry paw.

With all the compassion at his command, Kirk struggled to keep the expression "hang dog" from popping into his mind. However, the drooping ears and woebegone eyes made it damn near impossible. If Cadet Kraback had possessed more than the vestigial tail that had yet to disappear to evolution, Kirk had no doubt it would be tucked between his legs. He resisted the terrible urge to pat the poor being on the head by focusing his attention on the other cadets. All but Handly were glaring at their beleaguered colleague in disgust.

"For pity's sake, Kra, excuse yourself!" O'Hara quipped despite his resolve. Tossing off the perfect one liner had just become such an ingrained habit he couldn't help himself.

"You're in no position to crow, O'Hara," Kirk snapped. "You're digging a latrine upwind of your shelter."

O'Hara blushed, eyes darting from the tent sight to his half dug toilet. He might be a smart mouth, but he had no more desire to have his incompetence pointed out publicly than any other being.

"I suggest you find a spot downwind of the completely appropriate site Mr. Kraback and Mr. Handly selected and start digging," Kirk ordered. He waited until O'Hara had turned away, knowing the cadet was thinking dire thoughts but not letting even a whisper pass his lips. "And you better fill in the hole you started first. Wouldn't want anyone falling in."

At the tiny compliment to their site selection, Kraback dared to hope the sky wasn't about to fall on his head.

Handly stepped forward in the hopes of at least dividing the expected wrath from on high. "Kraback didn't do anything..."

Kirk waved him to silence. "I'm aware of a portashelter's sometimes...petulant nature. I'm sure you and Mr. Kraback can carry on with that in mind."

It took a moment for deliverance to sink in, but when it did, Kraback lost no time scrambling to retrieve the runaway shelter and, with Handly's help, struggling it back into position to try again.

Seeing an opportunity to display his own competence, especially in view of his fellow's misfortunes, Smythe was the next to speak up. "I've tested the water in the stream, sir. It's safe. And I've recorded a number of edible specimens among the flora."

Kirk gave Spock a "over to you" glance.

Spock held out his hand. "May I see the tricorder please, Cadet."

Proudly, Smythe pulled the strap over his head and handed the instrument over, completely confident of his conclusions.

"Your conclusions, based on your data, are correct, Cadet," Spock said after running the scans. Smythe visibly swelled with pride. He should have remembered that pride goeth before a fall.

"However, I see no record of a threat scan. Your first duty as a science officer in this situation would be to see to the safety of your party. Whether the flora is edible would be a moot point if you have already been eaten by the fauna."

Smythe's swelled head burst with a near audible pop as he accepted the tricorder back. "That's quite log...ah, yes sir," he mumbled.

"Dismissed, Cadet," Kirk ordered, suppressing a wince of sympathy. Spock certainly knew how to use that razor sharp tongue of his to cut a man down to size.

* * * * *

"We should have slept outside," Kirk breathed directly into Spock's ear. The cautious tone was entirely unnecessary given the symphony of snoring issuing from the blissful sleepers packed into the portashelter with them much like, as Spock had feared, sardines in an inflatable can. From Kraback's bass to somebody's falsetto, the noise in the shelter was enough to wake the dead.

"It is approximately 50 F outside at this time, and it is likely to become colder," Spock reminded in equally hushed tones.

"If we were alone, Mister, we'd be so busy humping, neither one of us would notice the cold." Kirk shifted slightly, bringing their groins into closer contact, a manoeuver which was normally met by an enthusiastic mirror response. This time, desperate to maintain some semblance of control, Spock attempted to move in the opposite direction. An impossibility, squeezed as he was between Kirk and the outside wall of the shelter.

Kirk tightened an arm around Spock's waist. "Where do you think you're going? You were just as hot to trot as I am just this afternoon."

"That was when you specified that we find somewhere private. I would not consider engaging in sexual intimacy in the midst of an untuned orchestra," Spock replied.

"Speaking of sexual intimacy, how many times do you think we'd have done it by now?" Kirk asked.

"At least five," was Spock's thoroughly depressing calculation.

//Nice empty balls,// Kirk thought wistfully, trying to ease the pressure of his insistent erection. Between the commotion in his ears and the one in his groin, he doubted he'd be getting any sleep tonight.

"What were the odds that all four male cadets would be snorers?" he asked to distract himself from thoughts of his sexy Vulcan lover stretched out on cool satin sheets in the best hotel on Star Base 12.

"I have not calculated them. I suppose, however, it is fortunate that at least the two females do not appear to be so afflicted," Spock replied.

"Snap to when I give an order, Ensign," barked Munroe's voice from the opposite end of the tent.

Kirk buried his face in Spock's throat to muffle a groan. "Oh wonderful, a sleep-talking wannabe with delusions of grandeur." He honestly didn't know how much more of this torture he could stand.

At that moment, Smythe, sandwiched back to back with Kirk, managed to roll over and plaster himself to Kirk, nuzzling the captainly nape while flinging his arm across the shoulders of both senior officers.

"That's it!" Kirk hissed, shrugging off the offending limb and struggling, amid many grunts of pain and surprised yelps, to crawl to the door of the shelter and escape into the night air.

A similar series of wordless protests followed by Spock's hurried apologies confirmed that the Vulcan had also chosen strategic retreat as the better part of valor.

"What was that?" asked a voice as Kirk turned to reseal the door.

"You know what it's like as they get older," replied a distinctive Irish lilt, "can't go through the night without a trip to the little boys' room."

"You'd think they'd have slept by the door," groused Munroe.

Holding his limited patience between tightly clenched fists, Kirk vowed silent revenge on his latest Irish nemesis and moved cautiously toward the glowing embers of the banked cook fire where Spock already knelt.

"I was in error. It is only 45 F out here," Spock said as Kirk sat down beside him.

Already shivering, Kirk wriggled closer. Their uniforms were some protection from the cold, but not damn much, he thought as he extended his hands toward the meager warmth.

"Remember what I said about being too busy humping to notice the cold?" he asked hesitantly.

"Yes," Spock answered reluctantly. The thought of exposing any unnecessary part of his anatomy, especially That Part, to the cold night air was...

"I think if I even consider opening my pants, it's going to try and hide under my balls," Kirk confessed.

"Agreed," Spock whispered fervently. He shifted a bit closer to Kirk who obligingly put an arm about his waist and then, not so obligingly, slipped a freezing hand under his shirt. He clamped his teeth over a protest and mirrored the embrace.

"This is going to be one very long night," Kirk lamented.

* * * * *

"We are confiscating at least one sleeping bag tonight," Kirk declared as he handed Spock a cup of steaming coffee. Ironically, although there was hardly enough food for a day or two, their 'salvaged' supplies had included eight large jars of instant coffee. An oddity he, for one, was not about to question.

"Agreed," Spock muttered between clenched jaws. He had to clench them or his teeth would be chattering like a set of Argelian castanets. Would the sun never come up?

Silently they waited for the slowing rising sun and hot coffee to restore life to their tired, frozen and sexual frustrated bodies.

"How long do you think it will be before they move us to less hospitable climes?" Kirk asked when the caffeine had begun to work its magic.

Experimentally, Spock loosened his jaws. When his teeth didn't immediately begin to chatter, he felt safe to answer. "We have been provided with four scenarios. It would, therefore, be logical to assume that the Academy's plans are to leave us in place for one week at a time." He paused as if to consider his statement. "However, I recall considering the administration at Starfleet Academy to be highly illogical during my own attendance. Therefore, it is my opinion that we cannot estimate their schedule for us with any degree of certainty."

"That's what I thought, too," Kirk agreed. He rose to his feet and began moving around, hurrying along the waking process. He wanted to be fully functional before any of the cadets poked their sleepy heads out of that tent.

Of a similar mind, as usual, Spock also climbed to his feet and stretched protesting muscles.

"I need to find out what they know," Kirk said. "I don't want to waste time teaching that. I also want them to start having to work together right from the start. We've got a couple of inflated egos to deflate, not to mention finding some way to convince Mr. O'Hara to stick a sock in it. Faralah and Kraback are both eager and bright, but lack confidence. As for Mr. Handly, his background speaks for itself."

"It will be interesting to see how he reacts," Spock agreed. "I do agree with your intent. How do you intend to accomplish it?" he wondered.

"The old 'what have you got and what's it good for' strategy," Kirk admitted. "I'll give them a couple of hours and see what they come up with."

"I believe I will meditate for that time," Spock decided. "If you have no objection, of course."

"You should sleep, Spock." Kirk protested. "With all the last minute work on the computers before we left, you've hardly laid down for more than an hour or two all week. I know you didn't get any rest last night either."

"Meditation would be much more beneficial at this point," Spock insisted.

"Whatever you say, Spock, just so long as you're not too tired tonight," Kirk warned with a leer.

Giving his lover an offended 'have I ever been' look, Spock retreated to the latrine.

By the time the cadets wandered out into the warmer morning air, Kirk and Spock had managed to work off the lingering traces of their miserable night and present much more credible countenances than their six charges. Kirk handed out steaming mugs and let them sip in silence for a few minutes.

"I trust everyone slept well," he offered by way of opening remarks, "because you all have plenty of work ahead of you. The Discovery will be returning in four weeks..."

"Returning, sir?" Faralah ventured hesitantly. "You mean they're gone?"

"Gone," Kirk confirmed succinctly. "And before they return, you are going to learn how to survive."

The cadets exchanged unhappy glances. Starfleet Academy never made anything easy; why should survival training be any different?

"Right now, Commander Spock and I are finding out what you know or what you can figure out on your own. By the way," he said with a meaningful glance that took in the entire group but, in particular, Munroe and Smythe, "everybody gets the same grade. Either you all survive together, or you all fail."

Kirk let that sink in for a moment, then gave them their instructions. "For that reason, we are going to leave the six of you to figure out what we have here and what it's good for besides the obvious, and whether it's worth the trouble to carry it. I want a report in two hours."

"All right." Munroe clapped her hands together briskly as soon as the senior officers were out of earshot. "Let's get to it. Faralah, did you make a list of the supplies when we were sorting them yesterday?"

"No," Faralah admitted. Who thought of making a list? It wasn't like there'd been anything to make a list on except the tricorder and Smythe had had that. "But all we have to do is look around. Everything we've got is all right here."

"Well, get something to make a list on now. With all the bumbling around yesterday," Munroe paused to glare at O'Hara and Smythe, "I'm surprised the Captain is even giving us the chance to make a report. I'm going to make sure this is a good one."

"Don't turn those arctic blues on me, Munroe," O'Hara snapped. "Who died and made you God?"

"I am the command candidate here, you know," Munroe reminded haughtily.

"That might make you Miss High and Mighty back at the Academy, but here you're no better than the rest of us ignorant grunts," O'Hara said. "And while we're on the subject, maybe you better wait until you at least finish the course before you start barkin' orders at the lowly ensigns."

"What are you babbling about?" Munroe growled.

"You talk in your sleep, darlin'," O'Hara said with a leer.

"I most certainly do..." Munroe stuttered to a halt as she realized the other cadets were nodding agreement.

"Never mind that," she snapped. "If we can't get a decent report ready for Kirk, we're all going to be in the doghouse. No offense, Kraback."

All six cadets settled in a circle and Smythe produced the tricorder.

"Let's start with the basics," Handly suggested before Munroe could once again try to take control of their little meeting of minds. "Food."

"Besides coffee, there isn't much," Faralah pointed out.

"There's always Smythe's edible flora," O'Hara quipped while Smythe stiffened.

"Don't start again, O'Hara," Munroe warned. "There's enough rations for a day or two."

"After which we all go on diets, right?" O'Hara wondered.

Five cadets rolled their eyes and settled down to the task at hand, determined to ignore O'Hara if they had to. Within an hour, they had gone over every scrap of 'salvage' they had, with Smythe carefully recording each item and its obvious use into the tricorder.

"We certainly don't have much, do we?" Kraback growled mournfully.

"I'm surprised it took us an hour just to set it all down here," Smythe confirmed.

"And we've only got an hour left to do the really hard part. We're supposed to figure out what else all this can be used for," Faralah reminded.

"And whether it's worth the trouble of carrying it around," Munroe added.

"Would have been nice if Kirk had bothered to tell us just how far we might be carrying it," O'Hara complained.

"Well, he didn't," Munroe snapped. "You know, O'Hara, if you can't contribute something useful, why don't you just keep your big..."

"Time's a wastin'," Handly reminded and picked up the shovel. "What alternative uses could this little number have?"

"How about using it to knock some sense into thick-headed Irishmen," Smythe suggested.

"Anything else?"

"How about burial detail after we all start dying of starvation?" Faralah offered.

"Come on, let's get serious," Munroe pleaded.

"If somebody hurt their leg, it could be a cane," Kraback suggested hesitantly.

"Good one," Smythe agreed and noted it on the tricorder.

Once again the cadets ran through their supplies, racking their brains for alternate uses for each item, but not coming up with much that seemed appropriate to their situation. As the time to report neared, they all realized they didn't have much of value to offer their senior offers. It was a very subdued group who came up to parade rest as Kirk and Spock approached at the end of two hours.

"Anything to report, gentlemen?" Kirk asked, amused by the obvious reluctance of every one of the cadets to be the bearer of bad news.

Finally, Faralah stepped forward, calling on all the control her Deltan father had taught her to suppress her nervousness. "Inconclusive, sir. We do not have the necessary knowledge or experience to make factual recommendations for the questions you raised."

Kirk glanced at Spock who stepped up to his side. Both officers nodded approval, but it was Spock that spoke. "The first step in learning is discovering the parameters of your ignorance."

Kraback shook his head, long ears flopping and expression mournful. "And boy, are we ignorant," he growled.

"Don't worry, Cadet, it doesn't have to be a terminal condition," Kirk reassured the Grawlian, once again having to suppress the urge to pat the furry head. "Let's all get some coffee, then Mr. Spock and I will start applying the cure."

He took the tricorder from Smythe and went over the notes the cadets had made. "Not too bad," he said when he'd finished the review.

"They have been somewhat linear in their thinking," Spock noted, reading over Kirk's shoulder. "Unusual in a predominantly human group."

"True. Why don't you point out the error of their ways to them."

* * * * *

"I have discovered that when a problem refuses to yield to straight forward logic, humans have a fascinating ability to adjust their perspective," Spock said when the eight of them were settled in a circle around their supplies. "To view it sideways," he went on, picking up the bottom half of the fitting that held a shuttle seat to the deck and tilting it sideways. "Or upside down," he added, demonstrating as he spoke until the curved bottom sat in his cupped palm.

"A bowl, sir. For holding water, for gathering food. It's made of tempered stainless, so we could even cook over the fire with it," Faralah exclaimed, taking the fitting when Spock offered it and turning it this way and that.

"Or inside out," Kirk continued the lesson where Spock had left off. He emptied the jars of coffee from the heavy duty plastic sacking they were packed in and turned it inside out revealing its thick seams. He carefully slid the tip of a knife down the center of the excess plastic in two seams, slipped his arm through the resulting straps and held up his creation.

"A backpack! It's a backpack!" Munroe realized. None of them had even considered using the wrapping.

Around the circle, six pairs of hands reached for items and began turning them over and around, while six pairs of eager eyes watched closely for the hidden treasure. Voices called out discovery after discovery, as Kirk and Spock sat back to watch, well satisfied to have started the process.

Like popcorn in an old fashioned popper, the excited revelations came fast and thick for a time, then began to gradually ease off to an occasional exclamation here and there, until they finally petered out altogether.

"What about ass-backwards, sir?" Munroe asked hesitantly, turning the sanipack she held over and over.

"If you think you have a valuable suggestion, Munroe, make it," Kirk prompted. It wasn't like the young woman he'd studied the past day and a half to hesitate.

"I know it sounds far fetched, but I was just thinking, sir, that this," Munroe held up the pack, "would do for a bandage in a pinch."

"Oh good Glory, yes!" Faralah hissed as if in the throes of an ecstatic orgasm and snatched the pack from Munroe's hand. "It's sterile, it's just smeared in antibiotics, and it's super absorbent. You could clean burns, dress cuts... Flaming Hearts, sir, you could pack a sucking chest wound with this!"

"Ahnana," moaned five male voices almost instantaneously. Only Spock had the wherewithal to force out a coherent phrase. "Cadet, your controls! Please!"

Which brought an abrupt end to the meeting of minds as six members stumbled away in search of less...stimulating surroundings.

* * * * *

Kirk gave the cadets a further 15 minutes beyond his own recovery time and then called them back to class.

"Mr. Smythe, how much does all our equipment weigh?" Kirk asked when they were once again seated in what was becoming a familiar circle of faces.

Smythe consulted the tricorder. "Just shy of 400 kilos, sir," he answered, causing Spock to almost visibly wince at the estimation.

It was evident by the shock on the faces around the circle that the information came as a surprise. How could so damn little weigh so much?

"There are eight of us, which means, to take all the equipment, we'll each have to carry 50 kilos. With the exception of Mr. Spock, can any of us do that?" Kirk asked.

"I can bench press that much easily, sir," O'Hara bragged.

"So can I, and I'm sure everyone else could too. For a few minutes," Kirk continued. "But what about walking, over uneven terrain, hours at a time, with that 50 kilos strapped to your back?"

No one volunteered to try it and find out.

"That means we have to decide what's truly important. Mr. Kraback," Kirk acknowledged the eager expression.

Kraback held up a paw, popping up a claw tipped finger with each item he named. "Food, water, medical supplies and defense."

Kirk nodded approval of the recitation.

"Protection from the elements?" Kraback added without too much hope. He just knew the portashelter was going to be declared too damn heavy. He'd much rather sleep in an over-heated tent with Munroe sleep-shrilling in his ear than huddle inside his own wet pelt in the pouring rain.

"Expendable," Kirk declared, not daring to look into the begging brown eyes. Hadn't Skip, the family dog, always known who was the softest touch at the dinner table? And didn't Spock always sense just the right moment to turn those sable orbs of his on Kirk's marshmallow heart?

"Right," Kraback agreed, determined not to whine about it like a pup who still had his milk teeth. He'd face the blasted rain with his fangs bared!

"Since we don't have phasers, I guess we'd all better walk softly and carry a big stick," Handly suggested. "A quarter staff can be a pretty effective weapon."

"There are three knives and eight forks," Faralah reminded. Feeling extremely subdued after her earlier slip, she was exerting extra control and remaining as inoffensive as possible.

"We could defend ourselves and have dinner at the same time," O'Hara quipped.

"Mr. O'Hara," Kirk ground out. "The very first thing that becomes expendable in a situation like this is the class clown. He's worse than useless because he distracts the rest of the group. Settle to the job, mister, and unless you have something useful to say, keep it to yourself." He glared another ten seconds at O'Hara, then let his gaze scan the rest of the group. "Carry on," he ordered.

"Food, water, medical and defense wouldn't add up to much more than four or five kilos per person. We can all carry more than that," Munroe pointed out in a business-like tone, filling the awkward gap.

"So now we figure out what else is worth the trouble," Handly suggested.

"The tricorder," Smythe declared emphatically, clutching the machine possessively. "It's warning, it can diagnose, it can find food and water and tell us if it's safe to consume."

"As can our own five senses, Mr. Smythe," Spock reminded, reaching over and removing the delicate instrument from Smythe's death grip. "There is no guarantee that if you ever are the victim of a shuttle accident, you will have possession of a working tricorder." He slipped the strap over his head and settled the familiar shape on his hip. If the truth were told, he'd felt almost naked without it.

"If the food we have needs to be cooked, we'll need utensils," Faralah said.

And so it continued, with the cadets bandying suggestions back and forth, occasionally looking to the senior officers for guidance and finding themselves set squarely back on their own devices, but perhaps at a slightly different angle.

"Truly essentials, plus a few 'luxury' items like cups, sleeping bags, etc., add up to about 80 kilos, sir," Handly reported on behalf of the group.

Kirk rubbed a hand over his mouth, considering. "Not bad," he confirmed, "but if you take a look at your fellow survivors, you may find you're being a bit stingy with yourselves." He leaned back, propping himself on outstretched arms. "80 kilos means approximately 10 kilos a piece. I'd say that would be a fair estimate for the load level for Mr. Faralah and Mr. Munroe." He shifted his weight to hold up a hand and halt Munroe's objection. "Not misguided chivalry, Mr. Munroe, fact. If you attempt to carry a load that's too heavy, you'll tire more easily and be prone to accidents. You have to know your limitations and accept them, cadet," he added gently.

Munroe subsided, reluctant to admit she couldn't cut it, and the facts of human male/female musculature be damned.

"Smythe, O'Hara, Handly and I could take on another five, perhaps ten kilos, depending how it's being carried. That extra ten kilos will pack along a lot easier on your back than in your arms," Kirk continued.

"I know I can carry more than 20 kilos, sir," Kraback volunteered.

"Agreed, Cadet," Kirk acknowledged. "You not only have twice a human's strength, you also have the option of travelling on all fours which more evenly distributes the stress of the load on your body. Another 20 for you then, Mr. Kraback."

The rest of the group exchanged doubtful glances reminiscent of the day before. O'Hara shrugged fatalistically. Kirk already had a pretty low opinion of him, so he might as well be the one to say what was on everyone's mind.

"I don't want you to take this the wrong way, sir, and please believe that we all think Kra is one of the finest, kindest beings we've ever known, but, sir, he's..."

"Clumsy," Kraback finished. "I try, sir, but..."

"Have any of you considered," Spock interjected, "that Mr. Kraback might well be overly conscious of the comparative fragility of the beings with whom he now associates, and that this is the source of his...lack of co-ordination."

"Which brings us to Mr. Spock," Kirk picked up smoothly, "who could easily carry the 80 kilos himself, and at double the pace any of the rest of us can manage." He paused to capture Munroe's gaze and hold it as his expression became rueful. "Which is a fact I have had to learn to accept with good grace."

"But would that be fair?" Faralah asked.

"It would be logical," Spock answered. "In order to ensure survival of the entire group, each member must give unstintingly of his or her talents, be it brute strength, knowledge or skills."

"And it helps when all three happen to come in one package," Kirk declared. "Now that we know how much we can carry, look at it again and see what else we can take." He stood up and when he tapped Spock on the shoulder, the Vulcan joined him. "For today, Mr. Spock and I are going to take on the task of foraging. While you're waiting for that culinary delight, decide what we take and who carries it. I have one proviso: everybody has one personal pack, kept on their person at all times. That pack will include one day's food and water, one-eighth of the medical supplies, something to defend yourself and the wherewithal to make fire. Understood?"

Six 'ayes' came back promptly and, satisfied, Kirk and Spock left to arrange lunch.

* * * * *

"We can take everything, sir, even the tent," Kraback exclaimed excitedly when Kirk called them over to the fire for a lunch of edible flora mixed with Starfleet's nutritious but tasteless survival rations.

"How's that, Cadet?" Kirk prompted as he handed out bowls.

"A travois, Captain," Kraback explained excitedly. "If everybody else carries their load limit, Mr. Spock and I can take turns pulling the travois loaded with everything else."

"From what will you construct your travois?" Spock asked curiously.

"The container the porta shelter came in and two of the support poles," Munroe answered. "Along with strips cut off the detachable ground sheet to make a harness. The ground's dry enough to give that up."

"Here," Kirk pointed out, "and now. It may not be where we're going, or, it could rain."

Munroe's face fell. "It would be too heavy for Kra to pull without a harness that distributes the weight."

"We could always cut a few strips off our tunics," O'Hara suggested, then looked shocked as if he could not believe a useful remark had come out of his mouth.

"That's right," Kirk agreed. "Now that you've come up with the idea, you'll work out the logistics."

"Sir, can I ask some questions about the orders you gave us?" Faralah asked uncertainly. Was it a court-martial offense to question a captain? Could you be court-martialed before you even graduated?

"In this situation, I want you to ask all the questions you can think of," Kirk replied and then switched to command tone. "But, if I give an order in this tone of voice, don't even think once, just do it."

"Yes, sir." Faralah thought for a moment. "Wouldn't it be better for the person with the most medical knowledge to carry the first aid kit?"

"As long as that person doesn't step off a cliff."

Faralah's mouth formed a round "O" of surprise, and the males braced for another blast to their libidos, but Faralah was still being careful to keep her system under strict control. "And the personal packs are if anyone becomes separated, he or she has the bare necessities."

Kirk nodded.

"Where are we going, sir?" Munroe asked the question that had been on everyone's mind since Kirk had mentioned moving around.

"Let's just say Starfleet Academy has its own agenda for this course, and not even Mr. Spock and I have been given all the details. That's why, as soon as you all clean up here, we're going to show you how to eat better off the land than you ever did at the cafeteria."

"That won't be hard!" O'Hara exclaimed.

"For once, Mr. O'Hara, I have to agree with you," Kirk allowed.

* * * * *

"Ah, alone at last," Kirk whispered several hours later as he crawled under the sleeping bag and into Spock's open arms. "And not a moment too soon."

"Indeed," Spock agreed fervently, pressing his face into his lover's neck and breathing deeply of the intoxicating scent.

"I thought I was going to come in my pants when Faralah let loose. Amazing how something you can't feel, smell, taste or see can hit you right in the balls like a double dose of Klingon aphrodisiac." Kirk moaned softly as Spock slipped a hand under his shirt and talented fingers zeroed in on a nipple.

"Or hear," Spock added, lick-kissing his way to the round ear.

"Yeah, yeah, or hear," Kirk muttered, reaching eager fingers to open the fastening of Spock's pants and freeing the hardened flesh he longed to lavish all five of his senses on. Could you hear a cock? Indirectly, he decided as his hand closed around Spock's erection and the Vulcan groaned lustily in his ear.

Shirts were shoved up as far as they would go, and pants were quickly wriggled out of and kicked aside so that excited naked flesh could begin passion's writhing dance.

"Oh, you do feel so good," Kirk murmured, lovingly stroking the long back, then cupping the smooth, flexing buttocks. Rolling carefully, mindful not to let the sleeping bag slip and expose his hot lover to the cold, he pulled Spock over him and between his thighs.

"I hope you are not in a hurry," Spock warned, taking up a gentle rocking motion that offered maximum loving contact without overstimulating aroused groins.

"Braggart. You know I could make you come just whispering sweet obscenities in your gorgeous ears," Kirk dared.

Unwilling to accept the challenge, Spock easily diffused the threat with a fiery kiss.

Hot and getting hotter, they rocked and rubbed, caressed and kissed. Twice they drew up to the very edge of orgasm, easing back by mutual accord. Not knowing when they'd have another moment of privacy, they intended to make the most of this opportunity. In fact, they intended to make it last and last and last....

"Fire photon torpedoes! Now!"

Enured to the voice of command, Spock, much to Kirk's disappointment, obeyed Munroe's sleep-shouted order and prematurely flooded their tight-pressed bellies with hot Vulcan semen.

"Damnit, Spock," Kirk complained in a frustrated whisper.

"I...apologize," Spock panted, enervated by the sudden unexpected release. "You did point out how easily I am aurally stimulated."

Kirk snorted, not in the least mollified. "You're only supposed to react like that to me! Now you've left me hanging."

"If you were hanging, Jim, there would be no problem," Spock pointed out, breath and composure somewhat regained. "And you know I will not do so in any case."

Kirk's reply this time was a soft grunt of approval as Spock's warm hand wrapped around his turgid penis and warmer lips descended on a sensitive nipple. He preferred them to come together, but with his balls on fire, he would gladly take what he could get.

Contrite, and not at all adverse to pleasing his lover, Spock began wriggling downward, intent on getting his lips wrapped around the rigid pink flesh. Just as he came eye to eye, so to speak, with his target, the sound of the portashelter seal scratching open froze him in place for a nanosecond before he scrambled up to lie tensely a sedate six inches away from Kirk's equally taunt body.

A low growl preceded Cadet Kraback's exit from the tent as he sniffed, trying to identify the scent in the air. Fortunately, Vulcan semen wasn't an odor he had ever encountered before.

"Kraback, what are you doing up?" Kirk had the presence of mind to ask despite the fact that his entire body twanged with sexual frustration.

"Cadet Munroe, sir. She...yelled in my ear," Kraback explained hesitantly. He didn't like to complain, but his ears were awfully sensitive, especially to high pitched sounds. If Munroe ever expected to captain a starship, she was going to have to learn to shout her orders from the diaphragm.

"She's not shouting anymore, Cadet. You better go back inside and get some sleep. It's going to be another long day tomorrow," Kirk reminded. His cock was doing a little dance in the air above his belly, demanding the stimulation promised only a moment ago by Spock's hot breath.

"Do I have to, sir? It's so hot in there," Kraback complained.

Reflecting that it was pretty damn hot out here too, Kirk realized he couldn't exactly order the cadet to sleep inside. With his natural fur coat, plus cadet tunic, the cold was certainly no threat to the Grawlian. Desperately casting about in his mind for some excuse to get rid to this coitus interruptus, it took Kirk a moment to realize the soft buzz coming from the other side of him was the sound of a dead to the world Vulcan. Spock had fallen asleep. And why not, his balls were empty!

"Of course not," Kirk conceded wearily, silently commanding his throbbing anatomy to follow the Grawlian's example and curl up and go to sleep.

* * * * *

It was a thoroughly disgruntled Captain who faced the barely lightening sky the next morning. Thundered awake by Kraback's snoring, and guaranteed to stay that way by the clamoring of an early morning erection, Kirk gave up on any further attempt to sleep. Struggling back into briefs and pants under the sleeping bag, he contemplated waking Spock so the Vulcan could do the same in relative privacy. Still miffed at being left unsatisfied, he spitefully decided to leave Spock be and let his quick-triggered partner struggle with the problem when he woke.

He went about making coffee as quietly as possible, but within a few minutes he heard the quiet rustling that indicated Spock was awake and attempting to make himself presentable.

Aware he was being given the cold shoulder, Spock dressed as quickly as possible in hopes of a few minutes to talk to his lover before the cadets began stumbling out of their tent. True, Kraback was only a few feet away, but the noise issuing from that quarter assured him the Grawlian was still blissfully unaware. Pulling on his last boot, Spock moved to squat beside Kirk.

"Jim, I am sorry," he apologized sincerely.

"You went to sleep on me," Kirk accused. "Why didn't you take a nap yesterday like I told you? Meditation, huh!"

"We could not have continued our activities in any case with Mr. Kraback present," Spock pointed out reasonably.

Kirk wasn't feeling particularly reasonable at the moment. "Easy for you to say, you're not the one with aching balls."

"I do not know how else to apologize, Jim," Spock said, gripping the wide shoulders and turning Kirk to face him.

Kirk's stubborn expression slowly softened. "Damnit, Spock, you're as bad as Kraback with those puppy dog eyes of yours."

"Then you are no longer angry with me?" Spock asked, confident of the answer.

"No," Kirk conceded. "But you owe me one very hot blow job."

"A debt I will gladly honor any time we have the privacy. Perhaps to..." The promise was cut off abruptly as Kraback emitted a startling series of growling snorts and began to uncurl. Spock dropped his hands and Kirk hastily turned his attention to the pot of boiling water over the fire.

"Morning, sirs," Kraback greeted with disgusting cheerfulness and took himself off to the latrine.

* * * * *

Only two cadets were missing from the circle around the fire shortly after sunrise five days later when the familiar sensation Kirk and Spock had been expecting to seize them arrived. As a result of attempting to catch an extra five minutes shut-eye, Smythe materialized in their new, less hospitable location, without his boots. Mr. O'Hara didn't fair quite so well.

"Help! Help!"

Still a little stunned by the unexpected beaming, the cadets stared stupidly at each other as Kirk and Spock sprang to their feet and ran through the soggy, clinging underbrush toward the sound of O'Hara's frantic screams. Kirk slowed his pace a little as he remembered the benign nature of Safe Haven. They weren't about to find Mr. O'Hara up to his armpits in crocodiles.

The scene they burst upon stopped the officers dead in their tracks, and sent their four shadows, who had quickly recovered and followed their leaders, into gales of hysterical laughter. O'Hara, unfortunately, had been on the throne when caught by the beam. As a consequence, when it released him, he landed, bare butt first, in the middle of a stinking quagmire. Hobbled by pants and briefs around his ankles, the hapless cadet floundered in a frantic attempt to preserve both his life and his modesty. Modesty quickly became secondary as he decided he was sinking fast.

"Help me! Help! It's sucking me under," he screeched, barely heard above his comrade's howls of mirth.

"Somebody throw him a vine," Kirk ordered, nearly choking on his own laughter and thinking that revenge couldn't have been any sweeter if he had planned it himself, "but make sure it's not a snake first!"

Kraback snatched a paw away from the vine he had reached for and looked it over suspiciously.

"Now, wait a minute, sir," Munroe gasped out between giggles. "You did say the class clown was expendable."

The reminder sent the rest of the cadets into further helpless spasms.

"That's not funny!" O'Hara yelped, frantically feeling around for something solid to grab onto.

Realizing the cadets were rendered useless by their laughter, and not entirely sure that Kirk wasn't considering Munroe's suggestion, it was Spock who yanked the vine loose and tossed it to the struggling cadet. Safe Haven may be relatively harmless, but they were not setting a good example by failing to react immediately.

Falling into line behind Spock, Kirk wrapped his hands around the thick vine and both men put their backs into it. Slowly but surely, O'Hara was dragged, bare-assed and covered in greenish-brown slime, onto firmer ground.

"Where the hell is Smythe and his tricorder when you need him," Faralah crowed, barely hanging on to her controls in the flood of delight she felt at seeing O'Hara get his richly deserved comeuppance.

"Speaking of Smythe," Kirk said. "Where the hell is he?"

Spock helped O'Hara to his feet and handed him a couple of large leaves from an accommodating plant to recover his modesty. O'Hara snatched at the leaves, mourning the loss of his pants and briefs, but grateful not to be sharing their putrid grave.

"He was still sleeping when we were...ah...beamed?" Handly reminded.

"Smythe?" Kirk shouted.

"Here, sir," came the reply from the direction they had come.

With the pungent O'Hara bringing up the rear and Kirk in the lead, they trooped back toward the sound.

They found the erstwhile sleeping beauty pawing through a pile of fresh supplies even more skimpy than what they had left behind.

"My boots, sir. Where are my boots?" He looked up from his hasty search and spotted O'Hara. "What the hell happened to you?!"

"Oh, Smythe, you should have seen it!" Munroe chortled and launched into a detailed report that soon had the cadets, with the exception of O'Hara, doubled up all over again.

Kirk stood waiting for the hilarity to end. He was going to have to deliver a stern reprimand for the cadets' performance during O'Hara's emergency, but first he had to make sure he could do it with a straight face.

* * * * *

If the cadets had thought themselves ill-provisioned in the hospitable environment of the grassland, they now viewed that pittance as comparative abundance. According to Kirk, who had been briefed on the scenarios if not their exact timing, they were a specimen collecting landing party suddenly cut off from their ship. Obviously, this was not meant to be an overnight expedition for they possessed an abundance of tricorders, communicators, phasers, and specimen collecting equipment, but absolutely no camping gear.

Fortunately, everyone, even O'Hara, had taken Kirk seriously regarding their personal packs and had had them strapped securely to some portion of their body when they were beamed, so the packs had arrived with them. Kirk had recommended such packs be instituted as standard landing party and shuttle crew equipment, but Starfleet had insisted there was no need. That hadn't stopped Kirk from making it SOP on the Enterprise, and he'd be pushing harder for their use fleet-wide when he got back.

In the meantime, he knew it was one lesson each of his present students would remember, as they realized how much worse off they'd be now if it wasn't for those packs.

"All right, first things first," Kirk began, rubbing his hands together. "Two of your fellow survivors need immediate assistance. Anybody have any suggestions?" he asked, congratulating himself for not laughing or even looking at the bedraggled O'Hara.

"I don't need clothes, sir," Kraback piped up immediately. "They can have my tunic."

O'Hara's head came up with a snap. He wasn't exactly Mr. Popularity with this group or any other at the Academy. His acerbic wit had seen to that. He'd been envisioning himself wearing a leaf kilt for the next three weeks. Yet, here was Kraback offering him literally the shirt of his back.

"I'm wearing boxers'." Handly added. "O'Hara can have them."

"I'd be grateful," O'Hara said sincerely, with a mental vow to curb his wayward tongue. And this time he meant it!

"I wrapped my pack in two extra layers of tarp," Faralah put in. "With strips off Kra's tunic for lacing, they'll protect Smythe's feet. Better than socks anyway."

"Much obliged," Smythe responded, also making silent revisions of his opinions of his comrades.

Kirk watched as the improvisations were implemented, exchanging glances with Spock and realizing the Vulcan was also well pleased with what was happening. He wasn't particularly surprised by which cadets had been the donors, and he hoped the others were getting the point. Just in case, he decided to drive it home.

"Do you realize, ladies and gentlemen, that for the first time since arriving on this lovely little vacation planet you all just co-operated."

He paused a moment to let that sink in and allow them to exchange surprised/satisfied glances.

"I want you all to keep that thought firmly in mind. Mr. Spock and I are going to reconnoiter the area. While we're doing that, I want the six of you to pull together what camp you can from what's available."

Once again deliberately not putting anyone in charge, Kirk collected Spock with a look and moved away.

"I can't believe we had eight tricorders available and not one of us got a recording of O'Hara sinking fast," Kirk said when they were out of earshot.

"I am rather surprised you didn't reprimand the others for not responding to his distress immediately," Spock commented. Unvoiced was his surprise at Kirk's reaction. They'd been together long enough, however, that he didn't need to say it.

"I knew he wasn't in any immediate danger, even if he didn't," Kirk reminded. "And I will talk about it tonight. I'll even point out my own poor performance. But you know as well as I do how important morale is, and that incident just gave their morale a booster shot. Landing in these circumstances so suddenly could have completely demoralized them. Instead, they all had a good laugh. Their generosity afterwards could also be a valuable lesson to O'Hara, if he isn't too thick headed to learn it."

"Indeed," Spock agreed. "Speaking of lessons, you and I would do well to learn from Mr. Smythe's predicament. Had the beaming occurred the first night we slept outside, it would have been you and I in possession of much less than our full uniforms."

There had been no opportunity since that night for them to even attempt intimacy as Kraback had decided to sleep outside as well.

"Shit!" Kirk exclaimed. "I never thought of that. Damn Starfleet anyway. After four weeks in the same clothes 24 hours a day, the Discovery isn't going to need scanners to find us, they'll be able to smell us! Shit!"

They trudged along in silence for a while, Spock glancing frequently at his tricorder, while Kirk allowed his senses to feed him most of the same information.

"I guess this means I'm not going to get to strip down that sexy body of yours until we get back to the ship," Kirk questioned/stated. "We're just going to have to remember not to get carried away."

"That is another problem. Because of the difference in terrain, Mr. O'Hara was shielded from view immediately after beaming. However, the reverse is also possible," Spock explained mournfully. "Even should we attain moderate privacy in one location, an unexpected beaming might well..."

"Catch us with our britches down," Kirk concluded.

"To say the least," Spock agreed.

"Sweet suffering...what a hell of a leave!"

* * * * *

It became obvious upon their return to the beamdown point that the spirit of co-operation hadn't survived Kirk and Spock's absence. However, in true Academy fashion, no one was about to tell tales.

Kirk paced in front of them for a moment. He could probably get the story out of Kraback eventually, but it wasn't worth the effort. Although disappointed, he hadn't really expected the diverse personalities to be overcome quite so easily.

"Let's go make ourselves comfortable, Mr. Spock," he finally said in disgust.

Gathering up exactly two-eighths of the new supplies, Kirk and Spock withdrew several yards to higher and, therefore, somewhat drier ground. They took several moments to take stock and make plans, then set about constructing a leanto shelter of wide leaves braced between two vine-draped trees. They then fashioned a floor covering/bedding out of more leaves to protect them from the damp ground. When that was done, Spock departed to collect dinner while Kirk started a fire from an instafire cube in Spock's pack and set water on to heat in one of the larger specimen containers. Within the hour, Kirk and Spock were settled down with hot coffee from Kirk's pack while their dinner of edible flora bubbled its way into stew over the fire.

Watching their leaders' industry for only a few minutes before following suit, Handly and Kraback quickly joined forces to begin constructing their own shelter, also on higher ground. Seeing they were handicapped by the absence of a knife, Faralah offered hers and the plans for the leanto were expanded to accommodate three. The mental blueprints for the still uncompleted structure were reworked again a few minutes later to shelter five when O'Hara offered the instafire cube from his pack and began collecting dry wood, and Smythe departed with the tricorder after announcing he'd return shortly with dinner.

Sipping his coffee, Kirk wasn't too surprised by the identity of the lone hold out. He'd had a mental bet with himself that it had been the stubborn command candidate who had instigated the breakdown of camaraderie. Nor was he particularly surprised to see her begin to make the effort to see to her own camp alone.

Being selected for command training tended to foster a certain arrogance. The command course itself usually managed to tame that down in any being with true potential. Yes, Starfleet Academy's command training was a truly humbling experience. Munroe wouldn't start the course until next semester. Too bad, Kirk reflected, that Munroe was going to have to take her lumps a little early. However, humility was not the most important part of what he was trying to teach her now. If she mastered the skills he was demonstrating, he would likely give her a passing recommendation. It would then be up to the Starfleet command course to teach her the rest.

"Thanks," Kirk said as Spock handed him a beaker full of stew and a soil scoop. He took a cautious taste and smiled his surprise at the pleasing flavor. "You may make a vegetarian of me yet."

"I doubt it," Spock replied, digging into his own beaker. "But I shall continue to make the effort."

Savory smells were beginning to waft from the other fire, but Munroe was still busy securing her protection, such as it was, from the environment. In Spock's opinion, if it happened to rain, Mr. Munroe was going to get very wet. In any case, it would be too dark before she finished to forage. She would have to rely on rations.

"How long do you plan to allow Cadet Munroe's isolationism to continue?" Spock asked, voice low enough that it would not carry to the nearby cadets.

"I don't think it will go on too long. She or one of the other cadets is bound to remember soon what I said about passing or failing together. Either they'll have to offer her an out, or she'll have to swallow her pride. I'd prefer the latter."

Spock nodded agreement and they fell silent, listening to the cadets' conversation and Munroe's muttered curses.

"We'll need to stand a watch," Handly indicated. "Smythe's threat scan showed some animals in the area. Four shifts of two hours each?" he suggested.

"Two shifts of four hours would be better," Faralah suggested. "That way everyone gets a full night's sleep every two or three days instead of everyone getting broken sleep every night."

"Practical," O'Hara pronounced. "Shall we draw lots?"

"I'll take first watch tonight," Kraback offered.

"And I'll take second. No misguided chivalry, gentlemen," Faralah warned. "We hang together or we hang separately, remember."

"Speaking of which," Smythe said in a whisper. "What do we do about Miss Future Starship Captain?"

O'Hara opened his mouth to provide a pithy opinion, remembered his resolution, and clamped his jaws shut.

"Leave her be for the time being," Faralah advised. "She doesn't want to do this course again anymore than we do."

"So what shall we do to while away the evening in our tropical paradise?" O'Hara wondered in a normal tone. "Sing?"

Kirk gave up his study of the wonderful things fire light did to the planes and angels of Spock's face and rolled his eyes. "If he starts in with Kathleen, I swear I'll..."

"It could be worse, Jim, Grawlians do not sing, they howl."

"I'm going to bed."

* * * * *

Faralah squatted down next to Munroe despite the stubborn expression that greeted her. "You know, you're guaranteeing we'll have to do this again," she reminded mildly.

Munroe shrugged. "Maybe I'll get companions with a little more common sense."

"Janie, you're just as ignorant about all this as the rest of us. If you had any experience, we'd all see the sense of letting you take over, but you don't."

"I don't know why the hell Kirk doesn't just put one of us in command when he and Spock decide to take one of their little strolls," Munroe complained. "They're supposed to be teaching us, not letting us stumble along on our own."

"You want to tell him that?" Faralah asked with a tentative smile.

"Not particularly," Munroe admitted, allowing a rueful smile of her own to crack her stubborn expression.

"Come on and get some breakfast," Faralah invited.

Munroe held on to her righteous indignation a minute longer. She was finally convinced, not by her brain but her belly. She was awfully hungry and the fruit Smythe had collected sure looked a lot more appealing than a nutribar. "All right," she conceded rather ungraciously, but Faralah didn't protest.

Kirk and Spock exchanged resigned shrugs. They would have preferred Munroe to have to eat a little crow with her breakfast, but they wouldn't interfere.

"O'Hara, would you mind sitting a little more downwind," Smythe requested. "With all due respect, you stink."

"We're all going to be pretty ripe soon if we don't bath and wash our clothes," Handly pointed out.

"No problem. There's a nice calm little river about 300 meters due north," Smythe reported. "I already scanned it for nasty surprises like crocodiles and leeches, and it's clear. I plan on taking a dip as soon as I've finished my repast."

"And have your uniform go the way of your boots, Mr. Smythe?" Kirk asked as he and Spock joined the cadets around their fire. "Another sudden change of location at the wrong moment..."

"I thought you said the Discovery was gone, sir," Faralah ventured. "Who beamed us?"

"There are automated transporters located on this planet. They will lock onto us via scanner readings and transport us to a new environment at pre-programmed times," Spock explained.

"I don't suppose you might know exactly when those times might be?" Kraback asked hopefully.

"I'm afraid not," Kirk replied with a rueful twist of his lips.

"Which leads us back to the problem of personal hygiene," Faralah said.

"Bathe in pairs," O'Hara suggested. "One person holds the clothes while the other bathes?"

"And put our filthy clothes back on?" Munroe sneered. "That makes a lot of sense. We can't hang our clothes to dry, if they would dry in this humidity, in case we get beamed again."

Kirk let the conversation continue until it began to get heated, then cut in. "Whether we all stink to high heaven isn't a survival issue, swimming in unknown waters alone is. If you want a bath, make sure somebody goes with you. Clear?"

Six heads nodded.

"Ah, sir," Munroe ventured. Kirk had told Faralah to ask any question that came to mind, so... "If we're going to be beamed all over this godforsaken planet, why did you make us figure out how we were going to carry our supplies?"

Honest ignorance O'Hara could force himself to ignore, but outright stupidity was just too tempting to pass up. He didn't care if Kirk did tear a strip off him afterwords, he just couldn't resist. "Come now, darlin'," he lilted to Munroe. "You don't really expect that wherever we might someday need the woodsy wisdom Captain Kirk's imparting to us will come equipped with a convenient transporter to snatch us out of the frying pan and drop us into the fire, now do you?"

Kirk stepped in before Munroe could fire back. "And speaking of woodsy wisdom," he quoted and began to kick sodden earth over the cadet's fire, not stopping until every ember was smothered. "It's time you learned to make fire without an instafire cube."

* * * * *

He knew it was a mistake to come here, but what else could he have done? If Kirk wanted a bath, Spock knew he would have it. Standing with his arms full of Kirk's uniform and watching the nude, enticing body in the water was only slightly less torturous than the thought of one of the cadets being in his position.

"They're going to be busy for hours rubbing their sticks together," Kirk was saying, running his hands over his glistening chest and pinching erect nipples, before letting his fingers slide down to the straining erection standing up just above the water. He stroked it from base to tip and back again. "Why don't you come on in here and we'll rub our sticks together. I bet we'll make sparks before they do."

"Your clothes, Jim," Spock reminded, sounding a hell of a lot more dispassionate than he felt. In fact, what he felt was decidedly passionate. Kirk knew all too well how erotic he found it when his lover made love to his own body.

"They aren't going to pull us out less than 24 hours after they dumped us here," Kirk reasoned and threw back his head, arching his spine to flaunt his eager penis.

Spock resolutely turned his back. It was logical that they would not be beamed to another location so soon. However, to the best of his knowledge, the transporters had not been programmed by a Vulcan and he was not about to trust his dignity to anyone else's concept of logic. Not even Kirk's. Especially not Kirk's, considering the sexually needful state he was in. He was not going to be enticed into sexual intimacy less then 300 meters from the cadets when an unexpected beaming could so easily leave them exposed.

His resolve lasted through several minutes, and when he did yield, it wasn't to desire but curiosity. Kirk had been absolutely silent since Spock turned his back - no more verbal blandishments, no sound of movement, nothing.

Unable to resist, Spock peeked over his shoulder to find that Kirk had upped the ante. He had turned his back to Spock and now stood, legs spread, bent slightly forward, while both hands cupped and squeezed the fleshy cheeks of his ass. Spock loved to play with that perfect ass and it always drove him wild to see Kirk doing it himself. And Kirk knew it!

"Sure you don't want to join me," Kirk asked without turning around. He could feel the heat of Spock gaze like a brand on his ass. He heard his clothes hit the ground, followed by the sound of one of Spock's boots and then the other following suit. Any second now, those hot hands would brush his aside, and...

"Captain Kirk. Mr. Spock."

Kirk whirled around and sank up to his neck, while Spock sat down, hastily pulled on his boots and yanked Kirk's uniform into his lap to cover the tell tale bulge. A few seconds later, Munroe broke through the brush. She stopped dead in her tracks when she saw Kirk in the water and blushed to the roots of her hair.

"Something, Cadet?" Kirk prompted when it seemed Munroe had lost her voice. He was all too aware of the fact that the water was far from opaque, but wasn't sure just how much Munroe could see from her vantage point. At least the shock of her intrusion had made his erection subside.

"Ah, I...we...ah," Munroe stammered. Just as Kirk feared, she had a damn good view and for the first time, she was seeing the Captain as something other than a record to surpass. It was no wonder he had such a reputation with the ladies - he had a body any woman would love to..."

"Cadet!" Spock's cold bark brought Munroe abruptly out of fantasyland.

"We've all made fire," she blurted, her eyes drawn irresistibly back to Kirk.

"Thank you for the report, Mr. Munroe. Dismissed," Spock ordered in the same icy tone.

Munroe snapped to attention, spun on her heels and beat a hasty retreat.

Kirk waded out of the water as she disappeared and snatched his undershirt out of the pile in Spock's lap. "They picked a hell of a time to become efficient," he complained as he dried and pulled on his uniform.

"Indeed," Spock bit off the word, thoroughly miffed by the close call and Munroe's all too appreciative scrutiny of his lover's body.

"If this keeps up," Kirk complained as they began trudging back to camp "I won't survive the survival course. I'll die of a case of terminal frustration."

* * * * *

"I'm not going to survive the survival course," Smythe unknowingly echoed his leader's words the next day.

Five voices moaned, groaned, growled or otherwise gave voice to their agreement. It felt as if they had travelled a hundred miles, doggedly putting one foot after another through what was surely Starfleet Academy's idea of hell incarnate. Hot, humid and dank, and those were its good qualities, the jungle of Safe Haven was proving to be as inhospitable a place as any of them had ever feared finding themselves in. Underbrush snagged the feet at every step, dripping wet branches lay in wait to smack an unwary face, and all about them swarmed clouds of biting insects intent on making blood donors of these interloping aliens. And their madman of an instructor had been leading them through this for the past six hours!

What the cadets didn't know, but was surely going to kill them when they found out, was that they had never been more than five minutes from camp. With no particular destination in mind, the senior officers were simply leading them around in ever widening circles. Insanity, however, played no part in Kirk's plan, for, along the way, whether they liked it or not, he and Spock were drilling into the cadets the skills that just might keep them alive in some unforeseen future. They didn't have to like it, they just had to learn it.

On the whole, Kirk was well satisfied with his students. Up until Smythe's remark, they had marched uncomplaining, saving their breath for slogging, and, hopefully, absorbing the knowledge he was attempting to impart. That's why, though he'd originally intended an all day excursion, Kirk now turned his steps toward camp. He'd take them out again the next day, and every day after that for as long as they remained here. How long they stayed out each day, he decided, would depend entirely on the cadets.

Five minutes later, they broke through the underbrush screening their camp and six jaws nearly hit the soggy earth.

"Circles," Munroe groaned. "We've been going around in circles."

None of the cadets could even work up a decent insubordinate glare. Perhaps tomorrow they could manage a little righteous indignation, but right now they were too damn grateful to see hearth and home, such as it was.

"Class is dismissed until tomorrow morning, Cadets," Kirk allowed generously and moved to the side, allowing the weary cadets to stumble past into the camp. Spock stopped beside him and they watched as each and every one of the cadets dropped their gear by the fire and forged on.

"Where are they going?" asked Spock, puzzled. He had been certain the cadets would immediately seek their make-shift beds.

"For a bath, Mr. Spock," Kirk said with a grin. There was something about human nature that was repelled by the idea, if it was avoidable, of crawling into one's own bed stinky to high heaven. Kirk had had a mental bet with himself that this would happen. It was too bad there'd been no one to wager with. He'd have won enough credits to retire on. "Which is exactly where we're going as soon as they're finished."

* * * * *

"That was the most disgusting experience of my life."

Marching through the jungle day after day, the cadets had kept their mouths shut like the good little future soldiers they hoped to be. At night, however, with the senior officers tucked up in their beds, and the illusion of privacy the darkness beyond their campfire afforded, they felt free to voice their grievances among themselves. That had, after all, been the right and sole comfort of the downtrodden throughout history.

"It isn't often I agree with you, Munroe," O'Hara allowed. "But when you're right, you're right. I swear that little stream the Captain had us strolling through today had to be second cousin to the quagmire I splashed down in." Several days of bathing nude in the river with his comrades had taken the edge of O'Hara's embarrassment somewhat. He did, however, still blush whenever the incident came to mind. He just hoped the flickering firelight wouldn't reveal it.

"If you think it was disgusting with boots on," Smythe chimed in, "you ought to try it in moccasins. It took me an hour to scrub the mud out and I bet when they dry, they'll be as stiff as a Vulcan's spine. That's if they dry."

All of them nodded in sympathy. They were all wearing damp clothes. None of them could resist washing the sweat and filth from their clothing after their daily bath, but, as the time grew closer when they could expect to be beamed on to the next scenic spot on this lovely planet, they put the clothes right back on. In the perpetual humidity of the jungle, they were in no danger of becoming ill, but neither were their clothes in any danger of drying completely.

"I can stand the filth. I can stand the sweat. I can even put up with being wet all the time," Faralah offered her own opinion. "What is going to drive me insane is playing main course for all the blood sucking little vampires out here. I'm so covered in bites, I feel like one big welt."

After due consideration, Munroe, Smythe and O'Hara chimed their agreement.

"You're awfully quiet, Kra. Please don't tell us this is just like home sweet home to you," Smythe prodded.

Kraback shuddered at the thought. "I don't like to complain," he demurred.

"You have to complain, Kra. It's your right," O'Hara insisted.

"Yes, Kra. It's an unwritten law or something," Faralah added.

It was Smythe, however, who came up with the clincher. "It's your duty, Cadet!"

"Well, since it's my duty... If you all think that mud felt bad, you oughta taste it!"

Safely in his own bed, but far from asleep, Kirk nearly laughed aloud at the Grawlian's growl. If he lived to be 200, he would never forget the look on Kraback's face as he'd dutifully groomed himself of the stream bed slime. He himself was every bit as tired, damp and welt ridden as his charges. They, however, were not tromping through the jungle and seeing to daily camp chores while suffering what was beginning to feel like a perpetual hard on.

Other than their daily bath, he and Spock hadn't had a minute alone, and Spock absolutely refused to co-operate after the close call with Munroe at the river on the first day. It was getting damned hard (no pun intended) to act with captainly dignity when his balls were in such an uproar. For that reason, and as a reward for their progress, Kirk had declared the next day a holiday. He intended to put that time to good use. He was going to get laid tomorrow if he had to drag Spock off into the jungle by his hair!

"Hey you guys, get some sleep while you can," Handly urged as he passed close to the fire. He had first watch tonight and fully intended to haul his relief, Munroe, out of her bed the minute his four hours were up. "Holiday or not, tomorrow is still gonna arrive too fast."

For Kirk, lying next to his sleeping lover, it seemed more like tomorrow would never come.

* * * * *

"How long do you think you can hold out?" Kirk whispered into a sexy pointed ear, before catching the lobe between suckling lips.

Backed up against a tree with his desirable lover plastered all over the front of him, Spock estimated his resistance time to be somewhere in the neighborhood of 30 seconds. He found his ability to be more precise thoroughly disabled by the tongue in his ear and the two hands cupping and squeezing his buttocks. It was almost enough to make him forget the very real possibility of making a public spectacle of himself. They might be relatively private at the moment, but that could be changed all too easily by the automated beaming equipment.

"Jim, please be reasonable," he pleaded uselessly.

"Reasonable my ass," Kirk growled. "This is the first time we've had five minutes alone in a week, and I'm so horny for you something's going to explode if I don't get some relief soon." He expanded his sensual attack by slipping both hands under the edge of the blue tunic and stroking the hairy chest while bringing his lips to bear on the long throat. After lying beside Spock night after night listening to the cadets stand their watches, he was desperate.

Spock lost his train of thought for a moment, but picked it up again as Kirk's hand moved to open his pants. He halted the impudent fingers as they struggled to get the zipper down over his erection.

"Jim, please, that is my point exactly," he panted, sounding unconvincing even to his own ears. "We have been here nearly seven days. We could be beamed to the next location at any time."

"Into who knows what," Kirk grated, twisting his hand free and finally getting the Vulcan's pants open. "We are going to get while the getting's good."

Spock knew he was lost when Kirk's right hand closed around his penis and the left drew his lips down into a hungry kiss. He gave up the uneven struggle gratefully and joined in the loving eagerly. A twinge of conscience intruded, however, when Kirk sank to his knees and began to lick at the rock hard, green tinged penis.

"I believe it is you who are owed oral stimulation," he panted.

"Mmmmm," Kirk hummed, mouth already full of the wide head and double ridges. He drew back slowly, until the tip slipped free with an audible slurp. "In a minute," He promised/demanded between licks up and down the shaft. "Just let me make sure you're running on all thrusters."

* * * * *

"That's it. Come on. Just a little closer. I just want to take a few pictures," Smythe coaxed. "I won't hurt you."

The subject of his attention sidled a little closer. He'd been studying the greyish-brown monkey-like creature for two hours now, slowly and carefully making his way up the tree where it perched.

"Com om om on, com om om on," the monkey mimicked in a high pitched sing-song. It eyed Smythe suspiciously, then copied the come-here gesture the cadet was making.

"Able to repeat words and gestures. Able to comprehend intent - it wouldn't come this close if it were a wild creature. I just know it's sentient," Smythe muttered to himself. "Starfleet was supposed to investigate for intelligent natives before they appropriated this planet. This is going to leave them with egg on their faces."

"Eeeegg on faaaaaace," the monkey echoed, finally moving into touching distance.

Smythe offered his hand, the monkey copied the movement. Smythe bowed his head politely, and once again the monkey echoed.

"What I wouldn't give for a universal translator right now. I'm Cadet Richard Thomas Smythe III of the United Federation of Planets. We come in peace."

* * * * *

"Mr. Spock, come quick! Come quick!"

Once again his inability to cut off outside stimulation, despite being the beneficiary of the expertise of the most talented mouth in Starfleet, proved Spock's undoing. He came so hard and fast as his brain assimilated the order, he nearly drowned/choked his unprepared lover where he knelt.

Gasping for breath, Kirk stumbled to his feet, took a moment to get his bearings, and raced toward the sound of Smythe's excited yelping.

"I'm sorry, Jim," Spock apologized as they ran, hastily trying to right his clothing.

"I know, I know," Kirk grated, finding running with a slowly subsiding erection to be no damn fun at all. "You're aurally sensitive. Next time I'm going to stuff cotton in your ears!"

"Look, sirs, look," Smythe exclaimed as the officers burst into his little clearing.

Kirk and Spock looked around and then up to where Smythe perched in the tree with one of the planet's native animals wrapped around his outstretched leg, humping for all it was worth.

"He's trying to communicate. He's trying to tell me something. I just know it. I wonder what this means," Smythe gushed.

"Same thing it means when your dog does it, Cadet," Kirk shouted back in disgust. He'd been denied his own much delayed release just to watch some dumb animal take advantage of one of his dumb cadets? Was there no justice!

"I never had a dog," Smythe revealed, alerted by the tone of voice and expression on Kirk's face that he might have jumped to conclusions.

"He's humping you! Now will you please practice a little coitus interruptus and get down out of that tree!" Kirk ordered just as the monkey let loose a satisfied screech and slumped against Smythe's leg.

Hurriedly, Smythe shook it off and scrambled down out of the tree. He stood at the bottom, shaking his leg. "Oh my God, sir, it...he...ejaculated."

"Lucky monkey," Kirk muttered, glaring daggers at Spock.

* * * * *

When the beam caught them this time, all eight members of the group were sitting around the campfires, just beginning their dinner. As a consequence, no one got caught with their pants down or their boots off. Dinner and utensils in hand, they also had a slight advantage Starfleet Academy may not have counted on. And they'd need every edge they could get they realized as they squinted against the glare of the mid-afternoon sun reflected off the miles and miles of white sand that surrounded them. One breath of the super-heated air may have felt like home sweet home to Spock, but to the rest, it seemed to sap every drop of water out of their wilting bodies.

"From the slime to the ridiculous," Kraback growled, already beginning to pant.

Seven pairs of eyes looked at him in surprise before Kirk broke the silence with a laugh. "Mr. Kraback, you've been spending too much time with Mr. O'Hara."

"Yes, Cadet, you must take care," Spock joined in. "Humans can be a very contaminating influence."

"Looks like another shuttle crash and explosion, gentlemen," Kirk explained after indicating everyone should sit and finish their meals.

"Maybe Starfleet needs to find someone else to make their shuttles," O'Hara suggested.

"Or fly them," Handly countered, knowing O'Hara was in training for the helm. "You, maybe?"

"So you're the pilot who keeps getting us into all this trouble, are you, O'Hara?" Faralah asked.

Kirk smiled to see the tables being turned on O'Hara and the Irishman's obvious struggle not to answer in kind.

"Gentlemen," he interrupted and pointed toward the supplies. He raised both eyebrows, never doubting the cadets would catch the significance.

"Captain Kirk, won't you please put someone in charge!" Munroe pleaded.

"Not a chance, Cadet," Kirk refused, "Who should be in charge is one of those things you're supposed to be figuring out for yourselves."

"Oh, for..." Munroe cut herself off and stomped over to the new supplies with the rest of the cadets straggling behind.

"Contaminated, am I?" Kirk said to Spock when the cadets were out of earshot. "You just wait until I get you alone, I'll show you contamination."

"I understood that you are angry with me," Spock reminded cautiously.

Kirk turned toward his lover and delivered his reply with truly frightening calm. "I am."

Spock gulped, fearing he knew only too well the lascivious lengths to which Kirk would be willing to go to wreck his lustful revenge on his quick-triggered lover. He was prevented from pleading for clemency (which he wasn't sure he wanted anyway) by Munroe's plaintive wail.

"Why don't you all just admit somebody has to be in command."

"All right," snapped O'Hara. "I nominate Kraback."

"It's too hot for this. Everybody just do what Captain Kirk taught us to do," Faralah ordered and began sorting their latest pile of supplies.

"They shouldn't tell candidates for command school that they've been accepted into the course until they've graduated the mandatory training. It makes them arrogant," Kirk observed.

"Were you?" Spock had the temerity to ask. In his opinion, Kirk occasionally tended to arrogance himself. In fact, if he were completely honest, maybe more than occasionally. Fortunately, Kirk could usually curb the tendency himself with common sense.

"Insufferably," Kirk admitted. "Still am, sometimes." He slanted a sly grin at his lover. "What do you think I keep you around for - just to keep me sexually frustrated?"

At that moment, Spock decided he better turn his formidable intellect toward the problem of eliminating that frustration before Kirk did something drastic. "Perhaps our new supplies contain some cotton," he suggested.

"The pants are mine!" O'Hara crowed. The search through the supplies had just revealed a packaged survival suit.

"Nobody claims anything..." Munroe began to protest.

"Oh, shut up, Munroe," Smythe snapped. "Aren't you tired of looking at his skinny legs?" He pulled the heavy boots out of the package, but discarded them with a disgusted shake of his head. "I'd sink hip deep with every step."

"They're learning," Kirk noted, having kept a close eye on what was being deemed valuable and what was being discarded. So far, their decisions were right on the mark. "Do you still plan on marching us across Safe Haven's version of Vulcan's Forge?"

"We have no choice, Jim. I have noted there is no shelter in the supplies, and little water," Spock said.

"Shit!" Kirk held up a hand. "I know, I know. I started the whole damn thing with my complaints."

"We're ready, Captain Kirk," Handly called.

The officers joined the cadets and critically reviewed their work and pronounced themselves satisfied, before Kirk turned command over to Spock.

Munroe gaped boggle-eyed when Kirk made the announcement.

"A problem, Mr. Munroe?" Kirk asked mildly.

"But you're the senior officer!" She couldn't conceive of anyone in command willingly taking orders from a subordinate.

"That doesn't necessarily mean I'm the best person to command in every situation. Mr. Spock is a Vulcan, Cadet. He's probably forgotten more about desert survival than I'll ever know," Kirk replied, smiling at the expected indignant eyebrow. "Not, that is, that Mr. Spock ever forgets anything." The glint in his eye reminded Spock just how good his memory was - about certain things. "Part of command is recognizing when to let those you command do what they do well."

Munroe subsided, reminding herself that Kirk was considered the best captain in the fleet, and Spock took over.

"We will travel each night after sunset until we find food, water and shelter. During the day, we will rest, moving around as little as possible." Spock let his best granite-eyed gaze skewer each one of the cadets. "You will not drink, no matter how thirsty you are, unless I tell you to."

Immediately six mouths and throats became parched, desperate for a drop of water. Even Kirk felt the psychosomatic symptoms of knowing he couldn't have a drink whenever he wanted it. No sex and no water. Maybe he really had died and gone to hell.

* * * * *

"Once we find some shelter, what are your plans?" Kirk asked. For several hours, they had been travelling through the moonlit desert with Handly and a tricorder in the lead, and the officers bringing up the rear. Gradually, Kirk had slowed and Spock had matched his pace until they were far enough behind to talk with some measure of privacy.

"If there is a source of water available, I believe it would be wise to remain wherever we find adequate shelter. I can continue to teach desert survival techniques from a base camp," Spock decided. He consulted his tricorder. "At this pace, we will reach a rock formation within two hours of sunrise."

"Handly's doing a pretty good job of point. He's set a pace everyone can keep up with," Kirk commented.

"And Mr. Smythe has been running a continuous threat scan all night," Spock pointed out.

Kirk chuckled softly. "That's one lesson he'll never forget. You realize that two of the tricorders we have now are really contraband - you and Smythe just happen to be wearing them when we were beamed."

"I never just 'happen' to be wearing a tricorder any time I am off the ship," Spock reminded.

"True," Kirk conceded with a twist of his lips. The chances were that even on shore leave, Spock would have his tricorder, except, of course, for the leave they had planned on Starbase 12 where Kirk might not even have let him keep his pants let alone a tricorder.

They walked on in silence for a few minutes. "Except for Munroe, they're beginning to shape up pretty well. I hope she comes around soon."

They fell silent again, doggedly putting one foot in front of the other and keeping a wary eye on their charges. "I wish they'd start acting a little more independently. It would be nice to be able to have more than five minutes alone with you," Kirk complained a few minutes later.

"I would also welcome adequate time and privacy to make amends for my poor performance recently," Spock ventured.

Checking that all prying eyes were forward, Kirk slipped his arm around Spock's waist and gave a quick squeeze. "I know it's not your fault, Spock. Not that I wouldn't welcome an opportunity for an uninterrupted moment to finally finish what I keep starting." He dropped his arm and put a little distance between them, sighing dramatically. "Considering the fact that you can see for miles around, I guess we won't be getting any privacy anytime soon."

"If we do set up a camp, I believe there is a way for us to be virtually alone every night," Spock hinted.

"How?" Kirk asked eagerly.

"Let us wait until we see if we can establish a camp," Spock hedged, not wanting to get Kirk's hopes up only to disappoint him. He'd already been doing quite enough of that as it was.

Kirk agreed and they fell silent again as they trudged on. Several more grueling hours later, he began noticing dark patches in the sand. His attention shifted to the cadets, watching the way they moved. It didn't take him long to figure out what was wrong.

"He's hiding it well, but Kraback's paws are in a bad way," Kirk whispered to Spock, pointing to the patches of sand stained with the Grawlian's blood.

Spock called a halt immediately. The rock formation was now no more than an hour's further march. It would provide shelter for all of them from the heat of the day to come. He studied the big furry body, noting the way Kraback tried to shift his weight from one battered paw to the other.

"Mr. Kraback, you should have mentioned your distress," he reprimanded mildly. He handed his much heavier pack to Kirk and moved to kneel with his back to the Grawlian. "I will carry you."

Thoroughly mortified, Kraback hung his head until his long ears hid his face, stubbornly stepped around Spock and began hobbling again.

Kirk stopped the advance with a hand on the furry shoulder. "It's no shame to be what you are, Cadet - to know your limitations and frailties and to accept them," he counselled, deliberately not looking Spock's way. He knew he never took his own advice, and one look at the two eyebrows that would be hovering just beneath Spock's bangs would be enough to set him off. Fine example that would be.

"I don't want to be anybody's burden," Kraback growled, keeping the whine out of his voice through strength of will alone.

"You are not a burden, Cadet. I am in command and you are, therefore, my responsibility," Spock reminded. "I should have realized this terrain would injure your unprotected paws. I will carry you to the rock formation not more than one hour away where your paws can be treated and protected so that you can go on tomorrow night if necessary. If you walk the rest of the way tonight, there is an 86.7392% possibility that you will be lame tomorrow."

"Accept help when you need it, Kra," Handly advised, slipping the Grawlian's pack off and settling it on his own shoulder. "It's a fact you never hesitate to lend a hand. You'd probably give a Klingon your last nutribar."

Reluctantly, Kraback climbed on Spock's back. Handly handed him the tricorder and they continued their moon-lit desert stroll.

* * * * *

"Don't put him down yet, Mr. Spock," Faralah instructed when they finally reached the rock formation the tricorder had promised. Gently she picked up Kraback's paws one after the other and shook her head.

"Oh Glory," she moaned in empathy. "Somebody help get him down. Don't let his paws touch the sand."

Handly hastily pulled off his tunic and smoothed it out on the ground while O'Hara and Kirk eased Kraback off Spock's back and carried him to where Handly waited. They lowered the Grawlian to the ground, placing his battered paws on the soft, grey material.

"Everybody give me the medical supplies from your personal pack," Faralah ordered, opening the medical kit that had been with their new supplies and plundering her own pack ruthlessly.

Spock collected the contributions and knelt beside Faralah. "Can you tend his injuries?"

"You were right, Mr. Spock. If he'd kept walking, he'd be lame. As it is, his poor paws are nearly raw meat." She picked up a hypo and adjusted the setting. "This is a general use painkiller, sir, it's...."

"I understand you have paramedic training, Cadet. Please proceed as you see fit," Spock instructed but kept a close eye on her actions.

Gently Faralah pressured the hypo into Kraback's thigh. Within a few moments, he gave a small sigh and leaned back against the rock.

With her patient more comfortable, Faralah made a more thorough examination of the injured paws. Determinedly she turned back to Spock. "I need water, sir. I can't get all the sand out with just the swabs and the sanipacks. If I don't get it out, he'll get infection."

Spock hesitated, only to have the decision taken from him as five hands unquestioningly held out their water containers. Whether they were truly learning, or whether it was the identity of the victim, didn't really matter at this point. Spock and Kirk added their water to the offering.

"I'll use mine," Faralah decided. "And you can all let me have a drink when I need it."

With a minimum of waste, Faralah cleaned the ravaged paws and spread on a healing salve from the medical kit.

"Do you not intend to seal the injuries?" Spock questioned when she opened a sanipack and began wrapping the sterile contents around one of the damaged paws.

"There's no sealer in the kit. In fact, sir, the kit's a joke," Faralah complained.

Curiously, O'Hara peered into the kit. Faralah wasn't kidding. He reached in and picked up the large tube that occupied most of the kit's space. "Turn your head and cough anyone?" he quipped, flipping the tube of sterile lubricant into the air.

Kirk snatched the tube out of the air. "Want to dig a latrine, Mr. O'Hara?" he asked mildly.

Only then did O'Hara realize he'd fallen back into his old ways. "Ah, sorry for the crudity, sir."

"A closed mouth gathers no foot," Kirk reminded, then addressed the rest of the group. "All right, everybody, pull up a rock, cover your heads and sit tight."

* * * * *

Spock considered his decision as he carefully harvested the broad, flat leaves of the cactus plants he had discovered. Kirk would call it lucky to have found more than a dozen of these moisture storing plants together within a few minutes of the rock formation that was providing them with some shelter, and Spock had to admit that circumstances certainly did seem to be in their favor. He wondered, however, how fortunate the others would count themselves when they tasted the only form of fluid they would have for the duration of their stay in the desert.

If the decision were to be made by committee, Spock was quite certain the cadets would all vote to keep travelling in the hopes of finding an oasis. Fortunately, the military was not a democracy, and, in this particular situation, Spock was in command. For personal reasons, as well as in the best interests of survival, he intended to stay right here.

Decision made, Spock secured the bounty of the desert and returned to the others.

* * * * *

Kirk woke from a fitful doze when Spock dropped down into the sand and leaned his back against the same upright slab of rock that obligingly supported Kirk and offered some meager shade. The cadets were in similar positions against other rocks, resting quietly. They would move only to follow the shade around their particular rock as the sun moved across the sky. They were in for several murderous hours when the sun was directly overhead, but Spock had already warned them to work out some sort of head covering from whatever they had.

"This will be a suitable place to camp," Spock pronounced, handing Kirk what appeared to be the spiny leaf of a cactus. "I found a number of these plants which, although not particularly pleasing to the palate, will provide both water and sufficient nourishment," he explained.

"And back to the slime," O'Hara commented from the rock he shared with Smythe. Spock had provided a supply of the leaves to each of the cadets and explained how to extract the fleshy pulp. From the look on O'Hara's face, Spock was somewhat guilty of understating the unpleasant flavor.

Cautiously, Kirk made a small slit in his own portion and peeled back the hard outer covering. He lapped a tentative tongue tip over the exposed inner surface. He'd tasted worse things, he decided, but not in a long time. Shrugging, he cut out a bit of the flesh and popped it in his mouth, chewing slowly as Spock instructed.

"An acquired taste, I assume," he said after swallowing. "It will certainly make us appreciate the water and rations we do have."

"Indeed," Spock agreed. The plant was no more acceptable to Vulcan taste buds than human.

Kirk leaned in a little closer and lowered his tone. "Ready to tell me now how you and I are going to be virtually alone tonight?"

"Of course, Jim. We are going to dig graves."

* * * * *

 

Although limiting their physical activity throughout the morning, the cadets were not mentally idle. By the time the sun reached its zenith and all shade disappeared, they had worked out the logistics of and put together a patch-work canopy which was erected over Kraback. A stranger sight, anyone would be hard pressed to find. Made up of undershirts, tunics and pack wraps and propped up by lashed together knives and soil scoops cum spoons and one lone shovel, it still provided adequate shelter from the blistering sun for all eight hopeful survivors.

"I commend you for your ingenuity," Spock congratulated when they were all settled under the canopy. Two weeks ago, the cadets might have felt he was damning with faint praise. The intervening 14 days, however, had taught them better. Spock might be stingy with his approval, but that just made the occasional tidbit he did offer that much more valuable.

"We will remain here until the transporters move us to our next location," he continued. "Whether such a decision would be viable in a true survival situation would depend on the circumstances, such as expectations of rescue or knowledge of the extent of the desert area. In this situation, it is logical to remain here where shelter and liquid are available and 'rescue' can be expected sometime within the next six days."

Spock paused to see if there were any questions. Nobody made a comment. If the truth were known, they were all too hot and tired to object if he suggested they sit here 'till hell froze over.

"As you are already aware, tonight will be cold. Had we not been marching, we would have been quite uncomfortable last night. Therefore, after the hottest part of the day is past, I will teach you how to construct a desert bed which will prevent you from freezing through the night."

"How are we supposed to make a bed, sir? Dig a hole and pull it in after us?" Munroe asked. It still rubbed her the wrong way that Spock was giving the orders now.

"Essentially," Spock agreed. "I will show you when the sun begins its descent."

* * * * *

Choosing a spot further along the slab Kraback leaned against, Spock began the demonstration. "You will dig your bed on the side which will be shaded in the morning and close to the rock which will retain its heat. Make it as deep as possible and wide enough for two in order to share body heat through the night. We have only one shovel and will have to improvise other items as are available.

"Mr. Spock," Kraback interrupted eagerly. "I can dig holes like that at warp speed."

"Not with those paws, you don't," Faralah commanded.

"But..."

"No buts. We haven't got enough water to spare to clean out your paws again," Faralah argued gently.

All of the cadets nodded agreement. Kraback was the one member of the group whom they all liked unreservedly. As much as none of them wanted to start digging in the broiling sun, neither were they willing to see their comrade further injure himself.

"I can't just sit here like a useless runt," Kraback insisted, turning his basset hound eyes on them.

"Well," O'Hara pointed out reluctantly, falling victim to the begging eyes. "He'd only need his front paws for digging."

He could wear my canvas moccasins?" Smythe suggested, pointing to his improvised foot wear. He may never have owned a dog, but that sure didn't make him immune to those pleading brown eyes.

"Too rough," Faralah vetoed.

"Just a minute," Munroe said and left the group to duck behind one of the rocks.

The rest of the group looked at each other in puzzlement, then shrugged. When nature called...

Munroe was back in the promised minute. "What about this as inner lining?" she asked, handing her bra over to Faralah.

Faralah ran a finger over the fine satin. "Not exactly regulation, Janie," she observed.

Munroe shrugged. "So put me on report."

If it hadn't been so hot, if Spock weren't here, and if it wouldn't have been completely inappropriate, Kirk would have gotten up and hugged Munroe. It looked like the last hold-out was finally coming around. He hoped.

"Welllll," Faralah hesitated. "If Kraback is willing..."

"I'm willing. I'm willing," Kraback interrupted.

"Then I guess we've got us a grave, I mean bed digger."

* * * * *

Surrounded by the warm sand of their freshly dug beds and the even warmer arms of his Vulcan lover, Kirk reflected on the drastic improvement of circumstances the sudden move to the desert had meant. The noise level had been reduced to a distant murmur that, if he stretched his imagination a bit, could be mistaken for the contented purr of the Enterprise's warp engines, and for the first time on this gawdawful planet, his ass was neither cold nor wet. Best of all, however, was the delightful fact that he and Spock were, to all intents and purposes, completely alone. He'd been half erect ever since he had realized the privacy the "graves" would mean that night and was more than ready to end his long enforced celibacy.

He slipped a hand under the hem of Spock's tunic and stroked the heated flesh of the long back. "Ah," he murmured, "alone at last."

"Not quite," Spock whispered back. "You appear to have forgotten the watch." Because of the numerous readings that had shown up on Smythe's threat scan, the cadets had once again suggested it was necessary to set a watch. Not being at liberty to tell them there were no dangerous animals on Safe Haven, Spock had had no option but to agree. Cadet Handly had volunteered.

Kirk lifted his head and cocked an ear toward the world outside their sand nest. He settled back and moved his hand around to Spock's chest, fingers seeking a nipple hidden amid the springy curls.

"Can't hear them at all," he declared as he found the small nub and pinched it gently. "Besides, these desert beds were your idea."

Spock sighed softly with pleasure, but his sense of privacy, for the time being, was still stronger than his lust. "That was before the decision to set a watch was forced upon me. Further, because we cannot hear Mr. Handly, does not mean he cannot hear us."

"I'll be real quiet," Kirk promised, fingers trailing downward toward the waistband of Spock's pants while his lips found and claimed Spock's to silence further protest.

Experience told Spock that the only thing that would keep Kirk quiet during sex would be a strip of conduit sealer across his mouth. Even that might not help as Spock could remember the exciting sounds that Kirk could still manage to make even with his mouth fully occupied by Spock's sizeable erection. For Kirk, sex and quiet were mutually exclusive terms.

He voiced his doubts when Kirk finally broke the kiss.

Aware of and sympathetic to his lover's need for privacy, Kirk paused in his sensual assault to come up with a solution. There was no way he planned to miss this golden opportunity. It took only a few moments of desperate thought.

"If I take the bottom, facing down, any noise I do make will be muffled in the sand," he suggested and was rewarded when the half swollen organ in his hand began to immediately enlarge toward its full potential. He gave it a loving squeeze, then released it to begin wriggling out of his pants.

"Don't pull your pants down," Kirk suggested when he felt Spock making similar movements. "If Handly does happen to look down here, you don't want to moon him."

As Spock stiffened, Kirk realized his tactical error and hurried to regain lost ground, capturing lips and erection and applying Spock's favorite techniques.

In no time at all, Spock gave up the humiliating thought of anyone except Kirk viewing his skinny butt and surrendered to his lover's expertise.

A few moments later, they were shifting into position and Spock was applying lubricant from the tube Kirk had appropriated from the medical kit.

"Ahhh, yes, hurry," Kirk groaned as two long fingers worked their way up inside him, lubricating and dilating his eager opening.

Spock froze, listening intently, until Kirk rocked back toward him. Privacy became a secondary consideration as the slippery walls of the cool tunnel contracted around his fingers. His needful cock throbbed with envy.

Remembering his promise, Kirk did his best to keep the noise down, but when the tip of Spock's penis spread him open and the rest of the hard shaft followed in one smooth stroke, an ecstatic cry built in his throat and he just couldn't prevent himself from giving it voice.

"Ah..." The cry cut off abruptly as Spock rocked forward with Vulcan strength, driving Kirk's face into the sand beneath him.

Desperately, Kirk wriggled, hearing Spock's soft sigh of appreciation from above. The pressure eased as Spock withdrew, but Kirk didn't have time to spit out both sand and protest before he again found himself face first in the dirt.

On the second withdrawal, Kirk tried to turn his head to the side only to find Spock's arms braced on either side of him like twin pillars of titanium.

"Spock, I'm..." he managed to get out as Spock pulled back.

By now Spock was thoroughly immersed in his own sorely missed pleasure. Ah, to be inside Jim again. It felt more like years than weeks since he had buried himself in the delightfully responsive body. Every delicious wriggle, every enthusiastic buck of the body beneath him increased the sensations tenfold, and Spock sought to repay the favor by driving in more deeply and forcefully with each thrust.

Face stinging, mouth full of grit, Kirk gave up trying to communicate his distress and concentrated instead on simply grabbing a breath now and then as the pace picked up.

Suddenly, Spock froze, and deep inside Kirk felt the eruption that signaled Spock's climax. He was never so glad to feel anything in his whole life, until Spock's dense weight suddenly collapsed on him. Oxygen deprived, Kirk made a last effort and heaved upward. Mercifully, Spock took the hint and shifted off.

Kirk came up, sputtering and choking. "Goddamnit, Spock! I've heard of being screwed into the ground, but that was ridiculous! Next time, you're on the bottom."

* * * * *

"Absolutely not."

From years of experience, Kirk knew that tone of voice. It would do him no good to argue. It was a measure of his frustration that he argued anyway.

"You owe me, mister. In fact, you owe me times three," he accused.

"I am aware of that." Spock shifted to put as much distance as possible between himself and temptation. Not an easy task in the desert bed constructed, just barely, for two. "I am certain Mr. Handly saw or heard us last night."

"Did he say anything?" Kirk continued his pursuit verbally and physically, closing the tiny space Spock had managed to open up between them.

"No, he did not," Spock admitted. "But I saw him looking at me strangely numerous times today."

"You were teaching them how to skin a snake and make a meal out of sand bugs," Kirk reminded in an outraged whisper. "They were all looking at you strangely. They thought Vulcans were vegetarians."

"One must do whatever one must to survive," Spock reminded primly.

"I bet they expect you to endorse cannibalism in the name of survival next," Kirk groused. Spock had actually pushed him away. If he wasn't so desperate himself...but that would be cutting off his dick to spite his balls. "Don't worry, I won't tell them how much you like eating..."

"Jim!"

"Okay, okay," Kirk apologized with a smile even Spock couldn't see in the darkness. "See how desperate I am. You know I only get a filthy mouth on me when I need it bad."

"Nevertheless, I do not intend to take the risk of 'mooning' Mr. Munroe," Spock stated adamantly.

Kirk gave an unseen shrug. "So let me be on top. I don't care if she sees my bare ass."

In Spock's opinion, Munroe had already had an opportunity to view entirely too much of the desirable body he considered his private property. "I do!" he growled in a tone that brooked no further argument and, asserting a prerogative he seldom employed, he flipped his lover over onto his other side and held him there with Vulcan strength.

* * * * *

When the beam caught them for the last time, it took them from the blinding glare of the desert and deposited them in the cool, absolute dark of...somewhere. It had to be the dense forested area that was the only environment left in the course, but there was no way to tell that visually.

Kirk, however, could hear the rustling in the underbrush as some of the disoriented cadets tried to stumble around without the aid of their most often relied upon sense. He remained silent himself for a few moments to see what they would do. He listened to the thrashing and grumbled curses until he heard the sound of flesh and wood meeting with a solid thwunk.

"Everybody stay where you are and close your eyes," he commanded over the soft moan of the unfortunate accident victim. "Now, open your eyes, put your hands out in front of you, and follow the sound of my voice."

He continued talking, raising his voice to be heard above the thunder of crackling leaves and snapping twigs. "That's it. Keep coming toward the..." his sentence ended in a yelp as a pair of not warm enough hands landed on his ass, groped their way around and were suddenly withdrawn.

"Sorry, sir," mumbled a feminine voice.

"Shoulder height, Munroe," Kirk growled quietly. "Most people hold their hands at shoulder height."

"Yes, sir."

The rest of the group found their way to him without subjecting Kirk to any further groping.

"Which one of us tried to walk through a tree?" Faralah asked when they were all seated in a circle within touching distance. If her paramedic skills were needed again, she wondered how in the world she was going to render aid while blinded.

"Just me," Kraback admitted. "No harm done. I'm used to it since I lead with my muzzle so much."

"Can anybody see anything?" Kirk asked the group at large, but in particular Spock and Kraback. He could estimate the abilities of the humans by his own, and he knew Spock's night vision was more acute. The Grawlian's limitations were still largely an unknown factor.

"I can distinguish the outlines of our group and some of the vegetation around us," Spock confirmed.

"I can't see much, sir," Kraback added, "but the smells..."

"What do you smell, Kra?" O'Hara asked hesitantly.

"Lots and lots of animals," Kraback revealed, his voice dropping to its deepest, softest growl.

Even Kirk, who knew for a fact that there were no dangerous animals on Safe Haven, felt a shiver of foreboding run down his spine at the Grawlian's tone. If someone with fangs and claws to defend himself was nervous, wouldn't it be logical for the rest of them to be scared stiff?

"What kind of animals, Kra?" Faralah ventured, hanging onto her controls through strength of will alone. The last thing she needed was to slip up now and turn the males of her party into sex-crazed creatures little better than the unknown fauna around them. She nearly lost it when something behind her let loose with a stream of high-pitched chittering. "What was that?!"

"Hang on, Cadet," Kirk ordered, not daring to touch her. He knew few intelligent beings panicked faster over the loss of any other sense the way they did when blinded. If Faralah flooded them with her irresistible pheromones now...

"I'm trying, sir!" Faralah wailed. She felt Munroe slip a hand into hers and she clutched it for dear life.

"That didn't sound like anything more threatening than an old flying squirrel," came Handly's calm voice out of the darkness. "We've probably parked ourselves right under his nest and he's just warning us away from his winter stash."

"You...you think so?" Faralah whispered hopefully.

"What about that one?" Smythe asked, nearly jumping out of his skin when something shrieked by overhead.

"Low flying shuttle?" O'Hara tried to joke.

"Did anyone get the license number?" Kirk picked up the patter. "We'll have the SPs ground 'em."

"That's probably just a hoot owl announcing to the world that he's awake," Handly contributed in that same easy manner. "He'll be looking for dinner, but I'd only worry about him if I were a rabbit."

Suddenly the darkness seemed filled with a hundred rustlings and non-sentient voices.

"That sounds like the rabbit now, scurrying for home while he can. You hear that base bellow? Off to the right? That's probably Safe Haven's big old moose looking for his one true love," Handly continued cataloguing the myriad of sounds around them.

Slowly, Faralah eased the death grip she had on Munroe's hand and Kraback's hackles smoothed back down along his spine. Kirk breathed a little easier when it seemed panic had been avoided. He had wondered when or if Handly would ever reveal his background. As far as Kirk was concerned, he couldn't have picked a better moment.

"We made so much noise when we first arrived that everything around us went real quiet. That's why..." Handly was explaining.

"Wait a minute," Munroe cut in. "Just how do you know so much anyway?"

Even though they couldn't see in the darkness, all heads turned toward Handly. As if they also wished to know the answer, the denizens of the forest also fell silent.

"I...ah...grew up on Wildlife," Handly admitted quietly.

"A border town?" Smythe ventured.

"No, you idiot," Munroe snarled, "a wilderness planet. He grew up on a wilderness planet and he's been letting us stumble around, making absolute fools of ourselves..."

"That's enough, Mr. Munroe," Kirk cut in in a tone dipped in titanium. "Mr. Spock and I have also been letting you make your own mistakes."

"That's different," Smythe took up the protest. "He's one of us! He should have..."

"What?" Faralah asked, drawn out of her self concern. "Done the Captain and Mr. Spock's job for them? Or maybe, every time they left us to muddle along on our own, he should have just taken over. Of course," she offered an unseen apologetic smile toward Munroe, "Not all of us were willing to do what we were told unless the teller has lots of braid."

Munroe snatched her hand away and folded her arms over her chest.

//And sometimes not even then,// Kirk thought. //She hadn't accepted Spock's command with very good grace.// He could almost see the waves of sullen disagreement shimmering around Munroe even though he could hardly see the girl herself.

"Mr. Munroe, you don't agree?" he invited.

"No, sir, I don't," Munroe rapped out. "Mr. Spock said it was only logical that each member of the group give unstintingly of their talents. Handly's been holding out."

"You think you could have taken orders from Mr. Handly if you had known his background?" Kirk asked, barely keeping his smile out of his voice. An idea had just occurred to him that had him hard pressed not to stand up and do a jig.

"Yes, sir, I could," Munroe insisted, although somewhere inside even she knew she was lying.

"All right, Mr. Munroe, in the morning, we'll test your theory."

* * * * *

The new dawn had a struggle of it, but eventually its light managed to pierce the canopy of trees overhead to cast a dim greenish light over the huddled circle of shuttle crash survivors.

"Couldn't they at least have come up with four original scenarios?" Smythe groused.

"A shuttle accident is the most likely reason you would find yourself in a survival situation," Spock said, coming to his feet and stretching with cat-like grace.

Kirk gulped down a chest full of lust and looked away. He had almost talked himself out of implementing the idea that had come to him the night before, but watching Spock's unconscious display firmed Kirk's resolve, among other things.

According to Starfleet Academy's instructions, he and Spock were to be considered injured parties for the rest of the survival course. Parties injured too badly to be of any assistance, but not so incapacitated as to represent a major burden. In other words, the cadets would have to work together whether they liked it or not. Kirk intended to alter the letter, if not the intent, of those instructions.

"I can't believe we all stumbled our way around here last night and not one of us fell over that," O'Hara exclaimed, pointing to the pile of supplies not ten feet away.

Kirk got to his feet and walked over to the supplies. He lifted a portalamp, sitting prominently on top, and dangled it from one finger. "This would have come in handy last night." He dropped the lamp and returned to the group.

The cadets rose to their feet as he approached, stretching out the kinks in preparation for the "what have we got" order, but Kirk had a surprise for them.

"Survival class is now officially over," Kirk announced, ignoring the eyebrows that hit Spock's bangs. "The next five or six days until the Discovery returns will be your chance to practice what you've learned before your exam, gentlemen. Mr. Spock and I are going to help ourselves to a few of these supplies." He laughed as all eyes turned to the small pile. "A very few," he reassured. "Then we are going to leave you to, as Mr. Faralah put it, muddle along on your own. Consider it a shake down cruise."

"Surely you're going to put someone in charge this time," Munroe very nearly demanded.

"As a matter of fact, I am." Kirk turned his attention to Handly who seemed to know what was coming. "Mr. Handly, you're in command until the Discovery returns."

Handly hesitated, then squared his shoulders. "Yes, sir."

"But, Captain..."

"You did say you could take orders from Mr. Handly," Kirk reminded.

Munroe nearly choked swallowing down her protest, for all the good it did her. She may not have voiced it, but her resentment was written all over her face.

"Mr. Spock." Kirk indicated the pile of supplies.

Still puzzled, but unwilling to question Kirk in front of the cadets, Spock obediently joined his lover in removing the barest of necessities, noting as he did so that Kirk appropriated one of the three sleeping bags available.

"Good luck, gentlemen," Kirk offered by way of farewell when he and Spock were ready to leave.

"You will be back before the Discovery, won't you, sir?" Faralah asked.

"Yes, we will," Kirk assured, and although the cadets wouldn't know it, he and Spock would also keep an eye on them.

"What if there's an emergency?" Munroe wanted to know.

"Then you will handle it, Cadet. All of you. Together," Kirk enunciated carefully. He swept them all with his gaze, pleased to see that none of them appeared particularly pleased, but neither were they panic stricken.

"Let's go, Mr. Spock," he ordered, shouldered his bundle and moved away. In a few moments, they had left the cadets behind.

"Jim, why did you alter the Academy's instructions?" Spock asked as soon as they were out of sight.

Kirk swung around until they were face to face. "If you haven't figured that out, lover, then you're not as smart as I always thought." He slipped his arms around Spock's neck and pulled him into a quick fierce kiss.

"Is that ethical?" Spock wondered. He did not, however, pull away. He was more than willing to be persuaded.

"Careful, Spock. I'm going to start thinking you don't want to be alone with me." Kirk grinned as the arms around his waist tightened. "That's better. Now, let's go find some place private and start making up for lost time."

* * * * *

"So, what are your orders?" Munroe asked bitterly as soon as the last speck of blue and gold had been swallowed up by the surrounding forest.

Handly shrugged. "Who needs orders? We all know what to do, so let's just do it."

Rolling her eyes, Munroe stomped off toward the supplies.

* * * * *

To Munroe's surprise, the six of them put together a credible, even comfortable, camp by nightfall without a single order being given. Handly was right. They did know what to do. Captain Kirk and Mr. Spock had seen to that. All they had to do was put the knowledge they'd gained to good use. In fact, the greatest problem looming on the horizon was acute boredom. Camp chores wouldn't take more than half an hour in the morning. Then what?

"Practice," O'Hara advised when Munroe voiced her question around the campfire that night.

"Explore," Smythe suggested. As a scientist, it behooved him to discover all he could about the environment around him. He would, however, be sticking to the flora. He might dabble in a little geology, but he intended to leave the zoology to the next hapless cadet anxious to make a fool of himself.

"Hunt," Kraback contributed hopefully. Rations and fruit were all well and good, but Grawlian's were only just learning the benefits of being omnivorous. His carnivorous ancestry had him hankering for a nice rare steak of something to sink his fangs into.

"Well, it looks like we've got plenty of options," Faralah observed. "But I wonder how Captain Kirk and Mr. Spock are going to keep themselves occupied."

* * * * *

"Jim, what is wrong?" Spock looked dreadfully concerned in the flickering fire light.

"Hmmmmm. Hope it's not broken." Kirk, on the other hand, seemed amused. Not a reaction you'd expect from a man of his reputation when his cock refused to raise its mushroom head.

"Perhaps you fear I will disappoint you again," Spock said guiltily. He squeezed the handful of soft genitals and was rewarded with a twitch. A pitiful twitch when he was used to a quivering tower.

"Nah," Kirk denied. "I think I'm just expecting one of the cadets to interrupt us again." He propped himself up on his elbows and stared down at his recalcitrant organ. "Now I know how my parents felt."

"You do not sound worried," Spock accused. He squeezed again. That was definitely more than a twitch. Now that was more like it, he decided as the captured penis slowly began to swell.

"I have faith in your ingenuity, Spock," Kirk teased, covering the large hand with his own and encouraging it to continued efforts. "I'm sure you can come up with a few possibilities," he coaxed, slipping the other hand into Spock's hair and aiming the parting lips toward his groin. "Why don't you give the matter some closer study."

Spock didn't bother with verbal acknowledgements, letting his mouth become fully occupied with the now much more co-operative organ. He parted his lips and took it in whole, having to back off almost immediately as the erection suddenly jumped from impulse power to full warp drive.

Spreading his legs wider to let Spock kneel between them, and lying back, Kirk sighed in contentment as the knowledgeable mouth surrounded him in suckling wet heat. He basked in being where he'd wanted to be for so long and let the sensations wash over him. He rocked his hips gently, thrusting slowly in and out of the mouth that eagerly followed his every move. Spock was totally focused on him now, intent on giving his lover an ecstatic orgasm. Just to be sure, Kirk reached down and carefully covered the sexy pointed ears with both hands. There'd be no untimely aural interruptions this time, he vowed as Spock slipped both hands under his ass the power lifted him, driving his cock down the long throat. Stars exploded behind his tightly clenched eyes and he gave up control, letting the rippling contractions milk the semen from his congested balls in one long stream.

"Ah, yes, yes, yes," Kirk chanted in triumph. He didn't have to be quiet, and he was finally, finally, finally coming.

Spock swallowed the last drop of the salty semen and licked his way off the still hard penis. Kirk's hands slipped from his ears, settling around his back as he carefully aligned himself between the wide-spread thighs. Their cocks brushed once before his hips were suddenly gripped and their groins were mashed together with bruising force. Under him, Kirk shuddered and the long cock pressed so tightly with his own suddenly flooded their bellies with more warm cream.

"Ooooh, that feels sooooo damn good," Kirk panted/groaned in relief.

Supporting himself on his elbows, Spock waited for his lover to come back to himself. He didn't have long to wait.

"That's two," Kirk pronounced, grinning and rubbing his still hard sex along the length of its Vulcan counterpart.

"I take it you intend to be insatiable tonight," Spock commented. Kirk normally possessed excellent recuperative powers, but he did usually become at least semi-flaccid.

"Damn right," Kirk agreed. "At least until I get even up with you. You owe me one more," he reminded. "Which reminds me, where's that lubricant?"

Spock slipped a hand into the folds of the sleeping bag and found the tube from the medical kit. He didn't know where Kirk had secreted the large tube, but it had survived the transfer from the desert. He had the feeling it wouldn't make it back to the cadets' camp. Which was just fine by him.

* * * * *

"I see you survived the survival course after all, Captain Kirk," Nogura observed from the screen on Kirk's desk. "In fact, I understand you went above and beyond the call of duty by grading the cadets. I'm certain Admiral Steeles appreciated that." The old man let his eyes widen innocently. "Was I wrong? I thought you didn't want the assignment in the first place."

Kirk leaned back in his chair, finding it a little easier to take the teasing in stride after spending the last few days of the course screwing himself and Spock silly. "It was a dirty trick to stick us with those kids for the first decent leave we've had in a year."

Nogura grinned. "That's what you get for being a squeaky wheel, Jim. I assume I won't be hearing any complaints from you in the foreseeable future."

"As a matter of fact, Admiral..."

Nogura's view of the Captain was suddenly obscured as Spock stepped in front of the screen.

"You will not, Admiral," the Vulcan assured solemnly.

"That's what I thought," Nogura said, reaching to disconnect the call. "Starfleet out."

"Spock! What do you think you're doing?" Kirk demanded.

He repeated the demand as a firm hand wrapped around his arm and propelled him out of his chair and into the bedroom.

"This is insubordination, mister," he warned, attempting to stifle his giggles as Spock began stripping away his clothing. He was outright grinning by the time Spock had him naked, a grin that only broadened as the Vulcan tipped him backward onto the bed, then proceeded to discard his own uniform.

"What are you doing?" Kirk demanded one more time as Spock climbed into bed and straddled his chest.

"You gave me a very specific order," Spock reminded.

"What order?" Kirk demanded as the dense weight settled on his sternum, pressing him into the bed.

"You have had another bright idea," Spock accused, leaning forward just far enough to bring the tip of his straining erection to the pink lips. "And I intend to sit on you until it goes away."

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